It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.
But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.
Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers – and found grace in a Charleston church.
I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.
I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.
All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work – the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.
And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ 'We the People.’ 'We shall overcome.’
Yes, we can.
And if you’d like to stay connected, you can sign up here to keeping getting updates from me.
A photographer for a Russian state-owned news agency was allowed into the Oval Office on Wednesday during President Trump’s meeting with Russian diplomats, a level of access that was criticized by former U.S. intelligence officials as a potential security breach.
The officials cited the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office while hidden in cameras or other electronics. Former U.S. intelligence officials raised questions after photos of Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were posted online by the Tass news agency.
Among those commenting on the issue was former deputy CIA director David S. Cohen. Responding to a question posed online about whether it was a sound decision to allow the photographer into the Oval Office, Cohen replied on Twitter: “No it was not.” He declined to elaborate when reached by phone.
The White House played down the danger, saying that the photographer and his equipment were subjected to a security screening before he and it entered the White House grounds. The Russian “had to go through the same screening as a member of the U.S. press going through the main gate to the [White House] briefing room,” a senior administration official said.
Other former intelligence officials also described the access granted to the photographer as a potential security lapse, noting that regular screening for White House visitors would not necessarily detect a sophisticated espionage device.
The administration official also said the White House had been misled about the role of the Russian photographer. Russian officials had described the individual as Lavrov’s official photographer without disclosing that he also worked for Tass.
“We were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual-hatted and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency,” the administration official said.
As a result, White House officials said they were surprised to see photos posted online showing Trump not only with Lavrov but also smiling and shaking hands with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Kislyak has figured prominently in a series of damaging stories about the administration. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign in February over his contacts with Kislyak last year and over misleading statements about the nature of those conversations to Vice President Pence.
The administration official said that “it is standard practice for ambassadors to accompany their principals, and it is ridiculous to suggest there was anything improper.” He added that White House rooms “are swept routinely” for listening devices.
Speaking to reporters at the Russian Embassy after his White House talks with Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov did not hide his irritation with repeated questions about Moscow’s alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election to boost Trump’s chances and damage Hillary Clinton’s.
“I never thought I’d have to answer such questions, particularly in the United States, given your highly developed democratic system,” he said, according to a simultaneous translation of his remarks into English.
Lavrov said that no evidence exists linking Russia to hacked Democratic Party emails released during last year’s election campaign and that the issue of Russian interference in the campaign did not arise in his meeting with Trump that morning.
U.S. intelligence agencies said they concluded with “high confidence” that Russia tried to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Lavrov at turns characterized such allegations as “noise” and a “humiliation” for the American people.
“We are monitoring what is going on here concerning Russia and its alleged ‘decisive role’ in your domestic policy,” he said, according to a quote reported in Tass, which added a remark phrased less colorfully by the embassy interpreter. “We have been discussing specific issues, but never touched upon this bacchanalia.”
Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 States
by Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer
This week, the President will visit South Dakota, marking the 50th state he has visited during his administration (as such, it’s also my 50th state with him). To mark the occasion, I chose one photograph from each state that we’ve visited. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. With help from photo editor Phaedra Singelis, I tried to depict a variety of situations. Some are more lighthearted; some are sad, and some are poignant. Some are with the Vice President; some are with the First Lady, and a couple are with the entire family. A selection of photos are centered on policy, and others on politics. Some focus on the President as Commander-in-Chief – others on his role as consoler for the nation.
I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned – we’ll be adding a photograph from South Dakota following his visit there on Friday.
Alabama, March 7, 2015. Marching at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Alaska. Nov 12, 2009. Air Force One refueling at Elmendorf Air Force Base. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Arkansas. May 7, 2014. Touring tornado damage in Vilonia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
California, July 23, 2014. Viewing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Colorado, July 8, 2014. Playing pool with Gov. John Hickenlooper in Denver. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Connecticut, Dec. 16, 2012. Making last-minute edits to his speech in Newtown, before a vigil for those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Delaware, Oct. 29, 2009. Honoring fallen soldiers from Afghanistan at Dover Air Force Base. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Florida, April 22, 2015. Keeping his distance from a baby alligator on Earth Day at Everglades National Park. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Georgia, May 19, 2013. Graduates cheering the President during a heavy downpour at Morehouse College in Atlanta. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
“I was moving around
trying to capture different scenes away from the stage during the event
to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to
Montgomery civil rights marches. When I glanced back towards the stage, I
noticed the president and first lady holding hands as they listened to
the remarks of Rep. John Lewis. I managed to squeeze off a couple of
frames before they began to applaud, and the moment was gone.” (Official
White House Photo by Pete Souza) Full gallery here.
On this 151st anniversary of the abolition of slavery, we remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others.
(Photo: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand in the ‘Door of No Return’ while touring the Masion des Esclaves (House of Slaves) Museum on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
White House: Trump 'united the entire Muslim world in a way that it really hasn't been in many years' on his big trip
(Donald Trump.AP Photo/Evan Vucci) A senior White House official told reporters on Tuesday that President Donald Trump united the Muslim world in a way that “really hasn’t been” done in “many years.”
Trump on Tuesday wrapped up the Middle East leg of his first foreign trip as president. The trip included stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“I think this trip was a big success because it was unexpected,” the official said. “It went in the heart of one of the, I always say that the president is always at his best when he’s doing big things that are unexpected. … He was able to really go into Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the holy mosques, and then Donald Trump united the entire Muslim world in a way that it really hasn’t been in many years. So it really was very historic in that regard.”
During the stop in Saudi Arabia, Trump delivered a speech to a group of leaders from dozens of Muslim nations. Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas while visiting Israel and the West Bank.
“The overall objective that we want to accomplish here is really try to find a peaceful way to create a new direction for the Middle East,” the senior administration official told reporters Tuesday. “Where it’s gone for the last 15 years has not been a good direction and we have to figure out how we do change that direction so that we obviously can have less war and more opportunity people there to live a better life.”
The official said the Saudi Arabia stop was an “amazing coming together of a lot of people” who are “looking for an opportunity to follow the lead of what the president wanted to speak about.”
“Some are serious and some are humorous. And of course, some are with babies (since the President loves babies). I hope you enjoy this year’s album of photographs.” —Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer. Check out his year in photos.
“Some of the photographs are historic because of what is taking place, but others hopefully give people a more personal sense of who the President and First Lady are.” —Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer. See his year in photos.
President Obama turned 55 years old
on Thursday, marking another milestone in the final year of his presidency.
With just under 100 days to go until Election Day, Obama
has increasingly looking back at his tenure in office — and his life. Last
month, Obama went off on a tangent about his daughters, for example, remarking
about he’s been “seeing them grow up and graduate from high school, and…
now about to leave their dad.” (Colin Campbell/Yahoo News)
Photos: (from top) Obama For America/Reuters, Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images, Chuck Kennedy, Pool/AP, Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson, Carolyn Kaster/AP, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images