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Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / Pool / AP/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama said at a tech conference Wednesday that one key to his decision-making was relying on staff and surrounding himself with a diversity of viewpoints, before adding:

"The other thing that is helpful is not watching TV or reading social media."

Why it matters: Obama has largely avoided major criticisms of President Trump, but he used his comments at a conference for Splunk, a company that helps businesses make sense of their data, to draw a contrast between the two administrations.

  • Obama admitted during his speech that he made mistakes in hiring. "I won’t say we enforced perfectly the 'no-jerk rule,' but its a pretty good rule. I won’t say who violated that rule."
  • He then added: "I'm proud of the fact we didn’t have indictments. I’ve said that before but that is pretty rare in modern day." Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation resulted in the indictments of 6 former Trump advisers.

Other highlights: Obama said there are tough calls you have to make as president, citing the decision to go after Osama bin Laden as a 50-50 call and bailing out Chrysler as a 60-40-type decision.

  • To make those calls, Obama said, you need the facts without spin or sugar coating, as well as a diversity of opinion.
  • Obama added that it's also important that the people who serve in the administration aren't there for fame or money: "Are folks here because they want to serve the American people?"

Obama cited health care as one of the key areas where Big Data can help, both to cut costs and improve outcomes.

  • "Almost our entire federal deficit, at least when I was president, could be accounted by what we spend on health care vs. what other industrialized countries spend" to get similar outcomes.
  • The government, he said, has tons of data from running Medicare and Medicaid. "All that stuff is really powerful. It can be powerful for researchers, it can be powerful for policymakers."
  • But, he added, medical data is at the same time highly personal and individual privacy needs to be protected.

Obama said that there are "a handful of big issues that if we don’t get right we have real problems. You can anticipate what those might be. Climate change is a big problem."

  • "Ultimately, it is a moral decision we make that we are, as much as possible, going to mitigate this problem we’ve created."
  • Obama also warned about income inequality and people living in filter bubbles, a problem he said is exacerbated by social media. "That's not healthy for a democracy and it's not healthy between countries. That's how wars get started and bad things happen."

On a lighter note, Obama acknowledged he remains a Chicago Bulls fan, but admitted: "It’s been a while since we were as competitive as we would like."

  • As for the local team, the Golden State Warriors, Obama praised the team and its coach and said it can survive the loss of star Kevin Durant. "You’ll be fine. Steve Kerr is a great coach, and more than that he is a good man."
  • There may be some rebuilding needed, but he said the team has created a culture that will endure and help that process. "Their best players just care about the team and are willing to make sacrifices."

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.