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Obama: Gitmo inspires jihadists
01:21 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

President Obama promised during his campaign in 2008 to close the military prison in Cuba

But he has been unable to deliver in the face of opposition on Capitol Hill

He said he still hopes to fulfill one of his first promises as president

Washington CNN  — 

President Barack Obama says he plans to push to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility during his final two years in office – potentially fulfilling a major campaign promise that he hasn’t yet accomplished.

“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley that aired Sunday on “State of the Union.”

“It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held,” Obama said. “It is contrary to our values.”

Related: Obama calls alleged North Korea hacking vandalism, not war

The President’s comments follow a flurry of executive action at the start of what he called his “fourth quarter” in the Oval Office – after Republicans walloped Democrats in November’s midterm elections, taking control of both houses of Congress.

After the election, Obama quickly announced an overhaul of U.S. immigration rules and new regulations aimed at curbing environmentally-harmful emissions. He followed those moves this week with a deal that represented the biggest steps to thaw the economic freeze with Cuba in decades.

The Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility – which Obama pledged to shut down as part of his 2008 campaign, but saw his plans thwarted when Congress passed a law prohibiting him from doing so – could be another target ripe for executive action.

Obama’s year-end message: North Korea Cuba and Congress

Obama has transferred many of the detainees housed at that facility to other countries in recent months, and said Friday he’ll continue trying to do that, since Congress won’t allow him to shift those detainees into federal Supermax facilities within the United States.

“We are going to continue to place those who have been cleared for release or transfer to host countries that are willing to take them,” Obama told Crowley.

Related: Guantanamo detainees release

The toughest challenge, he said, is dealing with “some really hard cases” in which “we know they’ve done something wrong and are still dangerous.”

Still, Obama said, he wants to shut the facility down. “I think that it does not make sense for us to spend millions of dollars per individual when we have a way of solving this problem that’s more consistent with our values,” he said.

More from Candy Crowley’s interview with President Obama:

Obama says hacking is act of ‘cybervandalism,’ not war

Related: Obama says he’s not being “rolled” by Putin