Obama: In My 8 Years We Have Not Had Scandals That Have Plagued Other Administrations

GARDINER HARRIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Mr. President, thanks so much for holding this press conference. If you had had hotels, real estate, and other businesses distributed around the world prior to becoming President, would you have thought it appropriate to sell them off and put the cash proceeds in a blind trust? Or is it okay for the President of the United States to be personally vulnerable to the policy decisions of the foreign leaders he meets and in the foreign policy decisions he makes as President? And also, just briefly, what's your complaint about how the NSA and Cyber Command have done their job? And are you considering firing Admiral Mike Rogers? PRESIDENT OBAMA: That was a rhetorical question, that first one. (Laughter.) Rather than comment on hypotheticals, let me say specifically what I did. Obviously, my assets were significantly smaller than some other Presidents or President-elects. But we made a decision to liquidate assets that might raise questions about how it would influence policy. I basically had our accountant put all our money in Treasury bills -- the yields, by the way, have not been massive over the course of the last eight years -- (laughter) -- just because it simplified my life. I did not have to worry about the complexities of whether a decision that I made might even inadvertently benefit me. And that's consistent with the broader approach that we've taken throughout my administration, which is to not just meet the letter of the law, but to go well beyond the letter to the spirit of the law -- not just for me, but for the people in the White House and in our leadership positions. We have established a whole set of rules, norms, playbooks that just keep us far away from the line. Early on in the administration, there would be questions about could a staff person go to this conference, or what should they do about this gift that was provided. And I think it was maybe our first general counsel who was responsible for setting up our guidelines and rules inside the White House that said, if it sounds like it would be fun, then you can't do it. (Laughter.) That's a general test. If it sounds like something you would enjoy or appreciate -- no go. And as a consequence -- and I'll knock on some wood here, because we got two months left -- I am extremely proud of the fact that over eight years we have not had the kinds of scandals that have plagued other administrations. And when I met with the President-elect, I suggested to him that having a strong White House Counsel that could provide clear guideposts and rules would benefit him and benefit his team because it would eliminate a lot of ambiguity. And I think it will be up to him to make determinations about how he wants to approach it. I know what worked for us, and I think it served the American people well. And because I had made a promise to the American people that I would not fall into some of the familiar habits of Washington, that I wanted a new kind of politics, this was one indicator. And at the end of eight years, I think I can say to the American people I delivered on that commitment.