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Watch President Obama Talk Chicago With Local TV Reporters

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 6, 2017 4:00PM

President Obama speaks during one of his final press conferences at the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
Less than a week before he’s scheduled to make his final speech as president in his hometown, Barack Obama did a round of interviews with Chicago reporters, the first time he’s done a series of one-on-ones with local journalists in eight years.

At the top of Obama’s mind was the surge in Chicago has seen in violence, which included comments on both the recent brutal attack of a mentally disabled man and the increase in homicides.

"These are neighborhoods that I know,” Obama told ABC7’s Judy Hsu. “There are people who live there that have been affected by it that I know. In some cases, it's happened just a mile or two from my house.”

When asked specifically about President-elect Donald Trump’s comments on Chicago violence by CBS2’s Jay Levine, he called the violence in the city “heartbreaking,” but didn’t mention him by name. “Obviously, most issues around crime and safety are local. I can’t send the Marines into Chicago,” said Obama, adding:

“My hope in addition to the work we’ve done as president - I’ve assigned the Justice Department to work with directly with the Mayor’s Office and the Police Departments there to come up with better solutions, best practices - my hope is that as a private citizen, who’s still got a home in Chicago, that I’ll be able to contribute.”

The president covered a wide range of topics while making the rounds, also answering questions about tensions between Trump and the intelligence community, race relations across the country, and the general legacy he’ll leave once he departs the office.

“It’s important that the president elect is getting the very best non-politicized intelligence possible, because our national security is at stake,” Obama told NBC5’s Carol Marin. “My hope is that when the president elect receives his own briefings...some of those current tensions will be reduced.”

When Marin asked him if he’d commute former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s sentence, the president also declined to answer directly. “As you know I’ve exercised my commutation powers very aggressively to make sure that we are not over sentencing—people particularly in low level drug crimes,” he said. “Some of these higher profile cases, we’ll see what gets to my desk.”

Obama touched on his legacy as president when Hsu passed him a question from an ABC viewer asking what happened to the “change” he promised, saying:

“I took an economy that was about to go into a Great Depression, and we've now had a little over six years of straight economic job growth, an unemployment rate that's down below 5 percent, and incomes that have gone up and poverty that has gone down. So we have done an enormous amount to create greater opportunity. Now, that doesn't mean there are still folks out there who struggle, and communities that are still depressed. And this is an ongoing battle.”

As far as if he will ever move back to Chicago, Obama said that First Lady Michelle ultimately will make that decision. “As she points out, she’s been dragged around on a whole bunch of wild adventures. She pretty much gets veto power here on out,” he said.