Obama says email leaks were 'obsession that dominated news coverage' during election

The US President says his conversations with Donald Trump about transition issues have been 'cordial'

Obama says email leaks were 'obsession that dominated news coverage' during election

Image: White House

President Obama has avoided commenting on whether he believes email leaks damaged Hillary Clinton's election chances - but suggested the issue was an 'obsession' during the election campaign.

The outgoing US president has been giving his final scheduled news conference of the year this evening, ahead of a family vacation.

Reporters quizzed him about the Democratic email leaks, which the President has claimed has claimed were designed to influence the outcome of the US election. 

He has also claimed that Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the cyber attacks, which led to leaking of emails connected to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign (including campaign manager John Podesta).

The New York Times has reported that Mrs Clinton herself told donors this week that the Russian leader ordered the attack because he had a "personal beef against me".

She reportedly claimed it was one of two 'unprecedented' developments that led to her defeat - along with the announcement by FBI director James Comey that the agency was again looking into her use of private email (only days before the election, he confirmed they had discovered nothing new).

Speaking at today's press conference, President Obama said: "I’m finding it a little curious that everybody's suddenly acting surprised that this looked like it was disadvantaging Hillary Clinton because you guys wrote about it every day. Every single leak, about every little bit about every juicy tidbit of political gossip - including John Podesta's risotto recipe.

"This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage. I do think it’s worth us reflecting [on] how it is a presidential election of such importance, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates, came to be dominated by these leaks."

He reiterated that an 'appropriate response' will be considered to the hacking. He suggested that while some of the response actions will be divulged publicly, "there are times when the message will be directly received by the Russians and not publicised."

"Part of why the Russians have been effective on this is because they don't go around announcing what they're doing," he added.

President Obama also commented on the ongoing transition process, saying his discussions with President-elect Donald Trump have been 'cordial' despite their disagreements on some policy issues.

He said that he had highlighted a number of specific issues, and that Mr Trump had listened to his suggestions.

President Obama told reporters: "I think [the Trump transition team] would be the first to acknowledge that we have done everything we can to make sure they are successful - as I promised - and that will continue.

"It's just been a few days since I last talked to the President-elect about a whole range of transition issues. There hasn't been much squabbling."