Outgoing United States President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended the idea of a free press, telling journalists that they were “supposed to ask tough questions”, The Guardian reported. “You’re not supposed to be sycophants,” Obama said at his final press conference as president. “You’re supposed to be sceptics.”

The outgoing head of state also said he would speak out against any effort to attack the country’s “core values” such as the right to vote and the future of immigrants, The Washington Post reported. “There’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake,” he said.

Obama also defended his decision to commute the majority of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence, Reuters reported. “I feel very comfortable that justice has been served,” he said on the decision, which has been condemned by Republican leaders. The president added that he did not see a contradiction between his administration’s approach to Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is being investigated by the US Department of Justice.

The president expressed optimism about the country’s future. “I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad...if we work hard, and if we are true to those things in us that feel true and feel right...I think we’re going to be okay.” Obama will step down from office on Friday and will be succeeded by Republican Donald Trump.