George W. Bush: Russia Definitely Meddled in the 2016 Election

The former president said the evidence was ‘pretty clear’ that the Russians had intervened in the presidential election despite Republican efforts to downplay their influence.

George W. Bush has risked the ire of Donald Trump by saying there’s “pretty clear evidence” that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

In an unusually forceful series of comments, the former president took further aim at Vladimir Putin—saying the Russian president had “chip on his shoulder.”

Although Bush didn’t mention Trump by name, his comments are likely to anger the current White House resident, who has repeatedly insisted Russia made no attempt to influence the 2016 election.

Bush also criticized the hardline immigration policies favored by the Trump administration.

Speaking Thursday at an event in Abu Dhabi, Bush said: “There’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled. Whether they affected the outcome is another question.”

The former president added: “It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.”

Trump previously dismissed claims of Russian influence in the 2016 election as “made up” and a Democratic excuse for losing the campaign. Investigations are underway to gauge Russia’s impact in the election.

In Abu Dhabi, Bush was also heavily critical of Putin, accusing him of lashing out because of the demise of the Soviet Union, despite famously praising the Russian president when the two men were both in power.

“He’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Bush said of Putin, according to the AP. “The reason he does is because of the demise of the Soviet Union troubles him. Therefore, much of his moves [are] to regain Soviet hegemony.”

Bush said Putin “is pushing, constantly pushing, probing weaknesses,” before adding: “That’s why NATO is very important.”

Bush and Putin had a strong relationship during the former’s presidency, with Bush once saying of Putin: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.”

However, the former president latterly soured on Putin, saying their relationship was “contentious” and that the Russian president became less interested in working together after oil prices rose.

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Bush has also previously criticized Putin for dissing his dog, Barney.

Later at the Abu Dhabi event, Bush criticized Trump’s decision to scrap Obama’s initiative known as DACA, which allows young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay.

“America’s their home. They’ve got to get it fixed,” said Bush.

He added: “There are people willing to do jobs that Americans won’t do. Americans don’t want to pick cotton at 105 degrees, but there are people who want to put food on their family’s tables and are willing to do that. We ought to say thank you and welcome them.”

Bush made his comments at an event hosted by California-based think tank the Milken Institute.