President Barack Obama is making his final moves on core issues of importance to him as he faces his final month in office.
The president has worked with senior staff to focus on final potentially legacy-building projects he can work on as he prepares to leave the White House and go from President Obama to citizen Obama.
One of these issues the president has announced action on is several climate initiatives. Obama announced this week that he is making moves to declare the Bears Ears area of Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada, a national park to be protected through conservation efforts. This comes after Obama announced earlier in the month plans to ban oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic. These acts of environmental protection are meant to safeguard the natural habitats and the ecosystems that exist within them, as well as the natural beauty of these sites. These measures also serve to expand the president's record on environmental regulation. Obama can also rest easy knowing that these decisions are practically irreversible by the incoming Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress.
Obama also has plans to transfer whatever detainees he can out of Guantanamo Bay prison before he leaves office on January 20. Throughout his presidency, Obama transferred numerous inmates to various countries after his efforts to move them to prisons on U.S. soil was blocked by Republicans. Of the 59 prisoners remaining, 22 are deemed eligible for transfer.
Obama is also looking to make final changes to the criminal justice system before his term ends. He has continued to pardon and reduce the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders. His pardon of 231 prisoners in a single day is a record breaker. His total number of pardons and commutations is now at 1,176. His predecessor George W. Bush pardoned 176 and Bill Clinton pardoned 456.
Another task at hand for the president is getting back at Russia for alleged interference in the presidential election. The administration announced a new round of sanctions as well as possible covert actions aimed at Moscow. It is believed by some in the intelligence community that Russian hackers released troves of emails from the DNC as well as spread misinformation among U.S. voters in order to ensure Donald Trump win the presidency.
Obama also seems to have gotten the final word on his tense relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the U.N. on Wednesday, the U.S. abstained on a vote to condemn Israeli settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The condemnation declared that Israel violated international law. Netanyahu summoned the U.S. ambassador in an act of anger, feeling betrayed by the U.S. It is no secret that Obama and Netanyahu have had a tenuous relationship. Obama has felt that settlements stood in the way of a two-state solution with the Palestinians and has grown frustrated with Netanyahu ignoring his calls.
With just a month left, Obama is likely to continue to operate on several policy areas important to him. With a Republican president succeeding him, Obama is likely to continue to do what he can to preserve his legacy and his accomplishments in office as well as provide Democrats with a few more policy victories before he returns to private life.