George W. Bush says there was "clear evidence" that Russia meddled in the 2016 election

The former president did not mince words, putting him at odds with the current commander in chief

Published February 8, 2018 11:16AM (EST)

George W. Bush (Getty/Alex Wong)
George W. Bush (Getty/Alex Wong)

Former Republican president George W. Bush put himself at odds again with current Republican President Donald Trump early Thursday, when he claimed that the evidence the Russian government had attempted to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was clear and persuasive.

Speaking at a business summit in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the 43rd president said that there was "pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled." He did caution, however, that the evidence does not indicate, at least to him, that such meddling actually had an impact on the contest's final outcome. "Whether [Russia] affected the outcome is another question," he said.

Bush continued, "It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results."

This follows comments made in October of last year, when Bush told an audience, "The Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other," and that "our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy and that begins with confronting a new era of cyber-threats."

Already, multiple U.S. intelligence agencies and non-partisan experts have concluded that Russian operatives did indeed attempt to influence U.S. citizens to vote for Trump through various means — a charge the current president and his administration have consistently downplayed.

Bush did not offer any commentary on whether he believed the Trump campaign colluded with those operatives during the election. Currently, special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating that issue and has already secured indictments on two members of Trump's campaign staff on associated charges. As well, he and other investigations have established that various meetings at Trump Tower with Russian individuals, some of whom have ties to Russian intelligence, occurred during the lead up to the election. Trump and his advocates have characterized that investigation as a "witch hunt" and reports that there was collusion as "fake news."

Bush, who was president from 2001 to 2009, did not vote for Trump and has indirectly criticized him for his divisive speech and policies. This, along with the generally low regard in which many hold Trump, has spurred a perhaps misguided nostalgia for Bush's presidency.

By Gabriel Bell

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