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Obama opposes boycott of Olympics over antigay laws in Russia

NBC News' Chuck Todd reports on the initial response to President Obama's press conference from both the right and the left while Andrea Mitchell breaks down the president's relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

President Barack Obama said Friday he did not think it was appropriate for the United States to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia because of anti-gay laws passed recently in that country.

“We’ve got a bunch of Americans that are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed,” he said. “Nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we’ve been seeing in Russia.”

He added that he hoped gay American athletes would bring home medals.

Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, has passed laws criminalizing “homosexual propaganda,” potentially allowing the police to arrest Russians and tourists whom they suspect of being gay or supporting gays.

The Olympics begin in February in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Obama said he does not have a bad personal relationship with Putin — answering a question spurred in part by the awkward body language at a joint press conference by the two men earlier this year. He said he has been encouraging the Russian leader to “think forward, not backwards. With mixed success.”

The president declined to speak about recent deadly drone strikes in Yemen, saying he would not talk about operational issues in counterterrorism.

President Obama said in a press conference that preventing people from getting health care is the Republicans' 'holy grail.'

Obama, giving his first full press conference since April, spoke at length about intended changes to the oversight and transparency of major government surveillance programs, and about National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

On his signature health care overhaul, Obama acknowledged that “there are going to be some glitches.” The administration has announced a one-year delay in a requirement for employer-provided health insurance.

But the president said other social programs, including Social Security and Medicare, also experienced bumps in the early days. He said it was also true of “a car company rolling out a new car” or “Apple rolling out the new iPad.”

Asked about threats by some Republicans of a shutdown of the government in order to stop the health care overhaul, Obama said: “I have confidence that common sense will prevail.”

The president encouraged House Republicans to put forward an immigration bill “that has an opportunity to actually pass.” He said that internal Republican party politics, not widespread opposition on the merits of immigration reform, was stalling it in the House.

“That’s what the American people don’t want us to be worrying about,” he said. “Don’t worry about your Washington politics. Solve problems.”'

He said a Senate bill amply addresses concerns about border security and other complications raised by Republicans. He also ticked off the benefits of bringing millions of illegal immigrants into the economy, such as making them participants in the housing market, after the government has assessed fines and back taxes.

On another matter, Obama called the selection of the next Federal Reserve chairman “one of the most important economic decisions that I will make in the remainder of my presidency.” He said that he would make that decision in the fall.

But he did not appear to hint at whether he might select either of two people considered leading contenders, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and current Fed vice chair Janet Yellen. He called both “highly qualified candidates.”

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