Obama Says Americans’ Skepticism Gave Campaign Hacks a Boost

  • Says on ABC he’s advised Trump on risk of Oval Office tweeting
  • Expects Obamacare, other initiatives to endure in some form

President Barack Obama, following the intelligence report describing Russian hacking of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, said he’s surprised by the extent to which false information has been able to influence the nation’s democratic processes.

The president, going into his final weeks in the Oval Office, spoke in an interview airing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

“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,” Obama said. The interview was conducted on Friday.

Obama said the ability of foreign countries to impact the U.S. political debate partly reflected the cynicism many people have toward mainstream news.

“In that kind of environment, where there’s so much skepticism about information that’s coming in, we’re going to have to spend a lot more time thinking about how do we protect our democratic process,” Obama added.

The type of interference that U.S. intelligence agencies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been going on for some time, and could happen again during elections in Europe this year, Obama said. “What is true is that the Russians intended to meddle, and they meddled,” he said. “And it could be another country in the future.”

Social Media

In a broad-ranging interview, Obama described his recent conversations with President-elect Donald Trump, whom he termed “very engaging and gregarious.”

The president said he’d warned Trump about the dangers posed by unfiltered use of social media after his inauguration on Jan. 20: “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.”

Trump has roiled individual share prices with Twitter messages about the activities of certain companies. In other recent tweets he’s hinted he’d like to change decades of policy on nuclear weapons; indicated he’d like closer relations with Russia even after the U.S. intelligence report on campaign hacking; and said the United Nations was a “club for people to get together.”

Obamacare’s Future

The president predicted the Affordable Care Act, his signature health-care law, would survive in some form. “It may be called something else,” he said of Obamacare. “I don’t mind.”

On health care and other initiatives, “my hope is that the president-elect, members of Congress from both parties look at, ‘Where have we objectively made progress, where are things working better?’ Don’t undo things just because I did them,” he said.

Republicans have suggested it’s a question of when, not if, Obamacare will be repealed, but have been less united on the kind of health coverage that will replace it for some 20 million Americans.

“There ought not to be a great gap” between repealing the measure -- first steps toward which could happen as soon as this week -- and replacing it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, said on the same program that “it would be ideal” it repealing and replacing the ACA could be done “in one big action.”

Democratic Losses

Even so, some elements of a theoretical replacement plan may require 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, Priebus said. Republicans have 52 seats. “The full replacement may take more time than an instantaneous action, but our intent is to make it make it happen as quickly as possible, the repeal and the full replace as fast as we can,” he said.

Obama said he takes “some responsibility” for the Democratic Party’s losses during his two terms among House and Senate members and in state legislatures.

“I couldn’t be both chief organizer of the Democratic Party and function as commander-in-chief,” he said. “We did not begin what I think needs to happen over the long haul, and that is, rebuild the Democratic Party at the ground level.”

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