President Barack Obama Monday will face a barrage of questions about the implications of Donald Trump’s coming administration, in his first news conference since last week’s stunning election upset.
Obama will appear before reporters before leaving the United States on the last scheduled foreign trip of his presidency, to Greece, Germany and Peru.
The event, scheduled for 3:15 p.m. ET in the White House briefing room. It will take place with many of Obama’s subordinates and liberals across the nation still barely able to believe he will be succeeded by Trump, whose volatile character and taboo-busting rhetoric could hardly strike a more overt contrast to the current president.
Obama had hoped to be handing the reins to a fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, yet is now preparing the way for Trump, a man for whom he has harbored personal and political animosity, and who has pledged to tear up his legacy as quickly as possible.
The President’s decision to hold a news conference before leaving will allow him to speak more pointedly about Trump and his policies than he might have been abroad. Given that Obama has pledged to fulfill his constitutional duty to peacefully transfer power, a tirade against a president-elect, by an outgoing president on foreign soil would hardly strike an appropriate tone.
Obama, who met Trump in the White House for 90 minutes Thursday, is likely to stress to reporters the importance of a smooth transition process, similar to the one he was offered by former President George W. Bush.
Trump may be in more need of assistance than other recent presidential election winners, considering he has no experience whatsoever of governing yet is about to take on what may be the world’s toughest job.
Some White House staffers were surprised by the businessman’s rudimentary grasp of White House operations but say they will work to get the new administration up to speed before January 20.
Officials described his visit as a wake-up call of sorts, revealing the work to be done with the new White House staff before Trump is sworn in.
Obama may also use the news conference to campaign for key items of his legacy — especially popular parts of Obamacare. For instance, Trump has said Obama asked him last week to consider retaining a provision that allow patients with pre-existing conditions to get insurance and another that allows children to be retained on their parents coverage until the age of 26.
But the news conference is also likely to be a tough one for Obama, since he is sure to be asked about his own legacy, which he had hoped to pass onto Clinton’s safe keeping, but which now faces evisceration by Trump.
He may also be asked to explain how, after coming into office on a Democratic wave, he will leave with a Republican president set to replace him and the GOP entrenched in their control of both chambers of Congress.
Obama’s comments about Trump may also come back to haunt him during the news conference.
The President repeatedly argued during the campaign that Trump did not have the temperament to control the nuclear codes — now he is likely to be asked if anything has changed his mind with Trump about to become president.
It’s possible Obama will also be asked to weigh in on the anger and fear in some sectors of the population about Trump’s presidency, given the Republican’s campaign rhetoric targeting minorities during the campaign and harsh criticism of Muslims.
Those fears were exacerbated for many by Trump’s naming on Sunday of firebrand polemicist Stephen Bannon as a top White House adviser.
The President is also under pressure to weigh in on the spate of hate crimes and intimidation of minorities apparently sparked by Trump’s election, and also the mass protests in many cities by demonstrators who chant that the billionaire will never be their president.
Reporters may also seek to draw out Obama on his personal feelings about Trump and the atmospherics of their meeting last week.
After all, the reality star turned politician pursued Obama for years over his false claims that the first black president was not born in the United States, in a campaign that many Obama supporters saw as deeply racist.
Obama’s meeting with reporters will also give him a chance to lay down a marker for how his devastated Democratic Party can rebuild after Clinton’s loss and a disappointing showing in the congressional elections.
The fact that the Clintons are now off the political stage, and his own high popularity ratings for a two-term President, will make Obama a much more influential figure in grooming the next generation of Democratic leaders and presidential candidates than would have been the case had the former secretary of state triumphed last Tuesday.