President Obama claimed a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy at a Wednesday afternoon press conference where he also refused to “meddle” into the FBI’s investigation into ex-CIA Director David Petraeus.

In the 53-minute news conference, his first formal question-and-answer session with reporters in months, Obama — using the power of the bully pulpit — repeatedly mentioned his electoral victory and set the tone by warning Republicans in Congress he’d earned political capital in advance of talks to begin Friday at the White House on avoiding the “fiscal cliff.”

In one of the more intense answers, the president also offered a forceful defense of embattled U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, inviting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and others to pick a fight with him over the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.