George W. Bush says Russia meddled in 2016 U.S. election

President George W. Bush speaks at a forum on Oct. 19, 2017.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Add former President George W. Bush to the list of those speaking out about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

On Thursday, Bush, who since he exited office in 2009 has kept a relatively low profile, said that “there’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled.”

“It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system,” said Bush, speaking in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, at a summit put on by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank based in California. “Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.“


He added, “Whether they affected the outcome is another question.”

The comments from Bush, 71, are in stark contrast to those of fellow Republican President Trump, who, since entering the White House a year ago has castigated individuals — politicians and intelligence officials alike — whenever they’ve highlighted Russian interference. On social media and in television interviews, Trump has regularly called stories about Russian meddling in the election “fake news.”

To date, officials from the intelligence community — the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency — have unanimously concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered hacking during the 2016 campaign. Moreover, Democrats and Republicans alike on Capitol Hill agree. For Trump, questions about Russia have clouded his presidency since its outset. An investigation into any potential collusion between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials is ongoing.

In recent years, Bush and Trump have had a tense relationship. Bush did not endorse Trump’s presidential campaign and passed on attending the Republican National Convention. Last fall, in a book about Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, the younger Bush was quoted as saying of Trump, “This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president.”

While in Abu Dhabi, Bush did not mention Trump by name.

He did, however, take aim at Putin.

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