Obama to Trump: "Stop whining before the game's even over"

Last Updated Oct 18, 2016 2:10 PM EDT

President Obama recommended that Donald Trump “stop whining,” in response to a question about Donald Trump’s persistent complaints that the election is rigged. The president also said Trump’s accusations about the validity of the election are “unprecedented,” and “based on no facts.” 

“I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidental candidate trying to discredit the election and the election process before votes have even taken place,” he said at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts,” he continued, saying that every expert who has ever examined the issue seriously will say incidences of serious voter fraud are not to be found. 

“One of the great things about America’s democracy is we have a vigorous, sometimes bitter political contest, and when it’s done, historically, regardless of party, the person who loses the election congratulates the winner, reaffirms our democracy and the democracy moves forward,” The president said. That’s how democracy survives -- we recognize there’s something more important than any individual campaign, he added. It works by consent, not by force.

Trump’s “whining” suggested to the president that he may not be fit for the job.

“If you start whining before the game is even over,” Mr. Obama suggested, “if whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.” He that he’d advise him “to stop whining and make his case to get the most votes.” 

Mr. Obama dismissed reports that quid pro quo discussions between a State Department undersecretary and an FBI official had taken place, regarding the classification level of an email received by Hillary Clinton.

“I think you’ve heard directly from both [the State Department and FBI] that the notion or the accounts that have been put out there just aren’t true,” Mr. Obama said. Some of the “more sensational implications,” he added, aren’t based on actual events and “derive from overly broad characterizations.”

The reports stemmed from notes released Monday by the FBI that included interviews with FBI officials about interactions with Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, who had pressed one of the officials to lower the classification level of an email about the Benghazi consulate attacks. 

The president was also asked about Donald Trump and the possibility that even before inauguration, he’d consider visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Obama accused Trump of showering praise and modeling his policies on Putin to a degree that is “unprecedented in American politics.”

Mr. Obama said he is “surprised and troubled” by Republican lawmakers he says are echoing their presidential nominee’s positions on Russia. Trump has praised Putin as a strong leader and criticized Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, for Washington’s deteriorating relationship with Moscow.

At the beginning of the joint news conference, the president expressed gratitude for Renzi’s partnership and praised Renzi as the embodiment of a new generation of leadership for Europe. The two agreed that their focus must remain on growth -- the president said that he and Renzi agree that without an emphasis on demand, growth, infrastructure and investment, Europe’s economic fragility will continue. 

Earlier Tuesday, President Obama called it a “bittersweet” day as he and the first lady welcomed the Italian prime minster for the last official visit and state dinner of his presidency. The White House said Mr. Obama wants to use the visit and final state dinner of his presidency to memorialize the strong ties between Italy and U.S. and “put wind in the sails” of a young leader that Obama views as a promising political leader.

The White House considers Renzi a key U.S. ally, who shares a great deal of common ground with the president, including the belief in the importance of a strongly integrated Europe. This idea has been tested by Britain’s recent decision to exit the European Union. Renzi soon faces a critical leadership test at home on this front, a Dec. 4 referendum in Italy on the government’s proposed overhaul of the constitution which could derail Renzi’s political future if it fails.

The state dinner for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday will be a glitzy affair that features celebrity chef Mario Batali in the kitchen and singer Gwen Stefani performing after the dinner.