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President Obama Defends Commuting Manning's Sentence In Final Speech As President

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama opened his final news conference by sending his thoughts and prayers to former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.

Both Bushes are hospitalized in Houston. The 92-year-old former president was admitted for a pneumonia-related respiratory problem. His wife was hospitalized as a precaution.
Obama says the White House reached out to the Bush family after learning of the hospitalizations.

"They are as fine a couple as we know," Obama said.

On Commuting Chelsea Manning's Sentence:

The president defended his decision to commute convicted leaker Chelsea Manning's prison sentence, telling reporters that "justice has been served" in her case.

Obama said that Manning has already served a "tough prison sentence" and it will not make people think that they won't face punishment if they disclose vital classified information.

The former Army intelligence analyst asked Obama to commute her 35-year sentence for giving classified government and military documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Manning was known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest and is more than six years into the sentence. She is set to be released from prison in May.

On Trump & Russia:

President Barack Obama is calling on President-elect Donald Trump to continue trying to persuade Russia to reduce its nuclear stockpiles.

In his final press conference as president Wednesday, Obama said that he tried to negotiate further reducing nuclear arsenals with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he says Putin was reluctant.

Obama is also calling on the next administration to lead by example and work to prevent big countries from "bullying" smaller countries.

He says that implementing sanctions on Russia following its incursion of Ukraine is a "good example of the vital role" America must play in advocating for and enforcing basic rights around the world.

On What's Next In His Life:

President Barack Obama says that after he leaves office on Friday he wants to take time to process the "amazing experience" his family has gone through.

Addressing reporters at his final news conference, Obama says he wants to make sure that Michelle Obama, his wife of 24 years, is willing to "re-up" and put up with him a little bit longer.

He wants to write, be quiet a little bit and "not hear myself talk so darn much." He also wants to spend time with daughters Malia and Sasha.

Obama and his family will head for vacation in Palm Springs, California, after Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

The White House has not said how long they will stay in California before they return to a rented home in Washington.

On Israeli & Palestinian Conflict:

President Barack Obama is warning that the "moment may be passing" for a two-state solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

Obama says in his final White House news conference that he continues to be worried that the "status quo is unsustainable" in Israel. He says his administration has tried to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution because he does not "see an alternative to it."

The United States decision to allow the United Nation's most powerful body to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has been condemned by President-elect Donald

Trump and Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama says the president-elect "will have his own policy" and that is his administration's prerogative. The president calls the situation in Israel "a volatile environment."

On LGBT Rights:

President Barack Obama says he doesn't think the expansion of LGBT rights in the U.S. is reversible.

Obama said as his final presidential news conference that society's attitudes have changed too much to turn back the clock on these issues.

He says there's still more work to do on the subject, but that acceptance by young people like his daughters has made a difference.

Obama also says he "could not be prouder" of the country's transformation on these issues, most of it coming during his tenure as president.

He gives credit to individuals and couples who he says were courageous in saying "this is who I am and I'm proud of it."

That, he says, helped open people's minds and hearts and the legal system eventually caught up.

On Voter Fraud:

President Barack Obama says that claims of voter fraud in the U.S. elections are "fake news," and that the U.S. is the only democracy that makes it harder for its citizens to vote.

Obama referred in his final presidential news conference to election fraud claims repeatedly raised by Donald Trump during his campaign. He didn't use is successor's name, but said claims of voter fraud have been "disproved."

Obama says there is an "ugly history" behind restrictive voting that traces back to the era of slavery.

Obama also warned that many Trump voters also feel disenfranchised. He says those people feel forgotten, looked down upon or fear that their children don't have the same opportunities as other Americans.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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