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HONOLULU (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law an annual defense policy bill, but in a lengthy statement he raised objections to parts of it, including policies blocking him from closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama pledged in his 2008 presidential campaign to close the military prison, but his efforts have been blocked by mostly Republican opposition in Congress. The Democratic president has instead reduced the population there by transferring prisoners to other countries.

The administration recently told Congress it would move up to 18 more prisoners of the 59 remaining at Guantanamo before Obama leaves office next month.

“During my administration, we have responsibly transferred over 175 detainees from Guantanamo,” Obama said in the statement on Friday. “Our efforts to transfer additional detainees will continue until the last day I am in office.”

President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in on Jan. 20, said during the campaign that he would keep the Guantanamo Bay facility open and vowed to “load it up with some bad dudes.”

The $618.7 billion defense spending bill passed by the Republican-controlled Congress this month was a compromise version that dropped controversial language requiring women to register for the draft.

But it kept some Republican-backed initiatives Obama had opposed. The legislation boosts military spending when there has been no similar increase in non-defense funding, and it bars closures of military bases even though top Pentagon officials say they have too much capacity.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said on Friday the legislation would give U.S. troops a pay raise and praised the Guantanamo language.

“This ensures that, right up until his last hour in office, President Obama will not be able to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States,” Ryan said in a statement.

Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush opened the facility to hold terrorism suspects rounded up overseas following the Sept. 11 attacks. Under Bush, the prison came to symbolize aggressive detention practices that opened the United States to accusations of torture.

Obama has maintained for years that he considers “onerous restrictions” on his ability to transfer prisoners a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch. But he gave no indication he would try to override those restrictions.

Reflecting the growing migration of espionage and warfare into cyberspace, Obama also said on Friday that he favors splitting the U.S. Cyber Command, which conducts offensive operations, from the National Security Agency and making it independent, similar to the military’s European and Pacific Commands.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson, additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Mary Milliken)

IMAGE: U.S. Marines exit an amphibious assault vehicle during a simulated beach assault at Marine Corps Base Hawaii with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Unit during the multi-national military exercise RIMPAC in Kaneohe, Hawaii, July 30, 2016.  REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.