George W Bush Bashes Putin, Sees "Pretty Clear Evidence" of Russian Meddling

The man who claimed he once peered into Russian President Vladimir Putin's soul is now saying there's "pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled" in the 2016 American presidential election.

Though he didn't mention President Donald Trump by name, Bush criticized his push to tighten border controls and rein in legal immigration while warming relations with Russia - which recently inspired Trump to effectively cancel sanctions against Russia that had been authorized by Congress last summer, CNN reported

"There's pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled," Bush said during a talk in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. "Whether they affected the outcome is another question."

Bush

Bush also said that "it's problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results." Bush's remarks followed reports from the US official in charge of protecting American elections from hacking, who said the Russians successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several US states prior to the 2016 presidential election.

Trump and his administration are still fending off allegations of collusion as Special Counsel Bob Mueller pushes for an interview with the president in his probe into Russian meddling and collusion - and Trump's lawyers have reportedly advised him not to agree to an interview.

"He's got a chip on his shoulder," Bush said of Putin.

"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 also stressed the need to back NATO and the US's other alliances, implicitly criticizing Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to withdraw funding from NATO unless its other members pick up the slack and offer more funding.

Putin "is pushing, constantly pushing, probing weaknesses," Bush said. "That's why NATO is very important," adding that the US needs to reform its immigration laws - one cornerstone of his "compassionate conservative" philosophy that he ran on in 2000.

Back in 2008, Bush became the first sitting president to visit the UAE. He spoke Thursday at a summit in Abu Dhabi organized by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank based in California.

He made his comments during a conversation with former "junk bond king" Michael Milken, who pleaded guilty to securities-law violations in 1990 and served 22 months in prison on a 10 year sentence. He also paid a $200 million fine and accepted a lifetime ban from the securities industry. Since then, he has reinvented himself as a philanthropist.

Bush broke is yearslong public silence last year to deliver a speech in New York where he critcized President Trump for his "hateful" rhetoric. Of course, the president didn't make any friends in the Bush family when he famously labeled Bush's brother "low energy" Jeb Bush.

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