19 Jan 2017

Obama holds final press conference

10:33 am on 19 January 2017

President Barack Obama has defended commuting yesterday Chelsea Manning's sentence for leaking military information, saying her 35-year sentence was disproportionate to the crime.

US President Barack Obama gives his final presidential media conference, 18 January, 2017, at the White House.

Barack Obama has given his final press conference before he leaves the White House. Photo: AFP

Mr Obama told his final news conference as president that he felt it made sense to commute Manning's sentence, which will now end on 17 May, because she went to trial and took responsibility for her crime.

"I feel very comfortable that justice has been served," Obama said.

Manning gave classified information of more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in 2010, the biggest such breach in US history.

Mr Obama told reporters that Manning had received a "very disproportionate" sentence relative to what other leakers had received.

He said the commutation was done without regard to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who said on Twitter last Thursday that if Manning was freed, he would accept extradition to the United States, where there is an open criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange's tweets," Obama said.

Mr Obama also spoke about the US relationship with Russia, saying there had been a return to an adversarial spirit that existed during the Cold War which was not helpful.

But before addressing those issues, he thanked the White House Press Corp for holding him accountable.

"You're not supposed to be sycophants, you're supposed to be sceptics. You're supposed to ask me tough questions... You're supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power - and you have done that."

Mr Obama told reporters his relationship with president-elect Donald Trump was cordial and he continued to offer him his best advice.


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