Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that there is “pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled” in the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system because democracy is only as good as the people trust in results,” Bush said at a Milken Institute summit in Abu Dhabi, according to The Independent. He added, “There’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled.”
“Whether they affected the outcome (of the election) is another question, but they meddled, and that’s dangerous for democracy,” Bush continued.
The American intelligence community concluded that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic groups and other activity in the 2016 election in an effort to help elect Donald Trump.
Bush’s comments come amid several investigations to determine whether Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia during the election. Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial of any election meddling.
Bush told the audience in the United Arab Emirates that “Putin is a brilliant tactician who has the capacity to detect weakness and exploit it,” but said he has “a chip on his shoulder.”
“The reason he does is because the demise of the Soviet Union troubles him. Therefore, much of his moves (are) to regain Soviet hegemony. … (Putin) is pushing, constantly pushing, probing weaknesses. That’s why NATO is very important,” Bush added.
Bush 43 has become increasingly outspoken about the current political climate in the US over the past year. Last October, he delivered a speech addressing nationalism and Russian aggression, countering points presented by Trump though never addressing the current president by name.
“The Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other,” he said at the time, adding that while Russian interference will not be successful, “foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence, should never be downplayed or tolerated.”
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.