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Photograph: EPA

Barack Obama, 55 minutes into his year-end press conference, finished answering a question about US incarceration rates and seized an opportunity to make his own escape - like Darth Vader fleeing the Death Star.

"OK, everybody, I gotta get to Star Wars," he said Friday afternoon.

The room erupted with a cacophony of reporters shouting additional questions, but Obama just smiled, said "Thank you," and slipped out of the room to join the expected tens of millions of filmgoers watching the newly released sequel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest later appeared at the press room dais flanked by two Star Wars storm troopers, along with chirpy droid R2D2.

Obama had earlier warned the press corps that they were not the droids he was looking forward to.

"Clearly, this is not the most important event that's taking place in the White House today," Obama said to start the press conference. "There is a screening of Star Wars for Gold Star families and children [of US soldiers killed in combat] coming up. So I'll try to be relatively succinct."

Meanwhile, Obama's foes in the imperial Congress were trying to use the Force against him.

Paul Ryan, speaker of the opposition-led House of Representatives, touted that wasteful spending "a long time ago - in a Congress far, far away" had been halted by his conservative Republican Party.

He blasted Obama for signing past budgets laden with wasteful spending.

"This was the Dark Side of out-of-control Washington spending and backroom deal-making," Ryan said in a press release.

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