President Obama, in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC, said he told President-elect Donald Trump that he must have confidence in the U.S. intelligence community in order to make good decisions.
“When I talked to him about our intelligence agencies, what I’ve said to him is that there are going to be times where you’ve got raw intelligence that comes in and, in my experience over eight years, the intelligence community is pretty good about saying, ‘Look, we can’t say for certain what this means,’ ” Obama said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week.
“But there are going to be times where the only way you can make a good decision is if you have confidence that the process is working,” Obama said. “And the people that you put in charge are giving you their very best assessments.”
Trump said Friday that he had a “constructive” meeting with intelligence officials, but still had questions about assertions that Russia hacked Democrats during last year’s election in order to boost Trump’s campaign and defeat Hillary Clinton.
In a report released by the intelligence community Friday, U.S. officials said they “assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”
“I think that what is true is that the Russians intended to meddle and they meddled,” Obama said on ABC.
He also warned against letting partisanship undermine faith in U.S. intelligence-gathering.
“One of the things I am concerned about is the degree to which we’ve seen a lot of commentary lately where there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats,” Obama said. “That cannot be.”
Obama acknowledged that he underestimated Russia’s hacking abilities.
“I don’t think I underestimated (Vladimir Putin), but I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyber hacking and so forth, to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating,” he said.
Obama urged Trump and Congress to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity and prevent any more foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“I think it’s important that Congress, on a bipartisan basis, work with the next administration, looking forward to make sure that this kind of (foreign) influence is minimized,” the president said. “We have to remind ourselves we’re on the same team. Vladimir Putin’s not on our team.”
Obama also said he has talked to Trump about Trump’s fondness for using Twitter to communicate with the American people.
“I’ve said to him, and I think others have said to him, that the day that he is the president of the United States, there are world capitals and financial markets and people all around the world who take really seriously what he says, and in a way that’s just not true before you’re actually sworn in as president,” Obama said.
Obama said he told Trump that running the country is much different than running a business.
“You can’t manage it the way you would manage a family business,” Obama said. “You have to have a strong team around you. You have to have respect for institutions and the process to make good decisions because you are inherently reliant on other folks.”
The president said his private conversations with the incoming commander-in-chief have been “cordial” and that Trump has been open to his advice.
“The main thing that I’ve tried to transmit is that there’s a difference between governing and campaigning, so that what he has to appreciate is as soon as you walk into this office after you’ve been sworn in, you’re now in charge of the largest organization on Earth,” Obama said.
Obama said he and Trump are opposite in many ways but that they have one big thing in common — confidence.
“It’s probably a prerequisite for the job, or at least you have to have enough craziness to think that you can do the job,” Obama said.
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