George W. Bush on Trump's Ties to Russia: 'We All Need Answers'

  • In NBC interview, Bush says ‘we all need answers’ on Russia
  • Former president stops short of advocating special prosecutor

Former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Former President George W. Bush, in his first interview since the start of Donald Trump’s administration, said he sees a need for an investigation into the Trump team’s ties to Russia and voiced skepticism about his successor’s approach to immigration and the media.

"We all need answers," Bush told NBC’s "Today" on Monday regarding the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia prior to the November election. He declined to say whether he thinks a special prosecutor should be named and said he trusted congressional committees to make that call. "You’re talking to the wrong guy," he said, quipping that he’s "never been a lawyer."

Bush voiced skepticism about his successor’s approach to immigration when pressed on Trump’s policy placing travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries under greater scrutiny when they try to enter the country. 

"I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and that upholds the law," he said.

Asked if he agreed with Trump’s pronouncement that the news media is "the enemy of the people," Bush was even more direct in his criticism of the new president. "I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need the media to hold people like me to account," he said. "Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power."

Bush added that while in office he’d pushed Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept a free press and that "it’s kind of hard to tell others to have a independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves."

The former Republican president and most of his family, including his father, former President George H.W. Bush, chose not to endorse Trump in the 2016 general election. The Bushes voiced concerns about the path down which Trump was taking their party and objected to how he’d treated former Florida Governor Jeb Bush during the Republican primary.

While Bush offered implicit criticism of some of Trump’s policy positions, he also offered a polite assessment of the president’s first five weeks in the White House.

"You have to take the man for his word that he wants to unify the country,” he said. “We’ll see if he’s able to do so.”

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