President Barack Obama on Monday refused to disclose his position on President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon to the top strategy job.
Speaking at his first press conference since Trump’s election, Obama asserted that he would not comment on Trump’s individual appointments in order to facilitate a smooth White House transition.
“Without copping out, it’s fair to say that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on every appointment that the president-elect starts making. If I want to be consistent with the notion that we want to try to facilitate a smooth transition,” Obama said.
Bannon’s selection sent shockwaves through the political world, earning condemnations from Democrats and even some prominent Republicans. The 62-year-old former head of Breitbart News has been accused of anti-Semitism over Breitbart’s embrace of the alt-right, a white nationalist movement. His ex-wife also testified that Bannon “doesn’t like Jews.”
Throughout Tuesday’s press conference, the president urged patience while the administration turned over the reigns to Trump’s incoming team.
Though he said that it was “too early to tell,” Obama said he hoped Trump would balance his promises to voters with the concerns of many critics who fear Trump’s positions on key issues such as immigration and abortion.
The president also emphasised that it’s “important for [Trump] to have the room, the staff up, to figure out what his priorities are, to be able to distinguish between what he’s campaigning on and what’s practical, what he can actually achieve.”
“Given that President-elect Trump is now trying to balance what he said in the campaign and promises he made to his supporters with working with people who disagreed with him and members of Congress and reaching out to constituencies that didn’t vote for him,” Obama said. “I think it’s important for us to let him make his decisions, and I think the American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see, and whether these are the kinds of policies and this is the direction they want to see the country go in.”
“And my role is to make sure that when I hand off this White House, it is in the best possible shape, and I have been as helpful as i can to him in going forward and building ont he progress we’ve made.”
The president also gently chided Americans who did not show up to vote.
“Whenever you’ve got an incoming president on the other side, particularly in a bitter election like this, it takes a while for people to reconcile themselves with that new reality,” Obama said. “Hopefully it’s a reminder that elections matter and voting counts. I don’t know how many times we have to re-learn this lesson, because we ended up having 43% of country not voting who are eligible to vote, but it makes a difference.”
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