Former US president George W Bush has addressed Donald Trump’s travel ban and attacks on the media in his first interview since President Trump’s inauguration.
President Bush led the country from 2000 until 2008, and at the time was considered a very divisive leader, but he said Americans should take Trump at “his word” that he hopes to unite the country.
Other than that though, the 70-year-old appeared to have little in common with Trump. Here’s what he said.
SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017
Bush led the US into two wars – Iraq and Afghanistan, both predominantly Muslim countries – but delivered a speech following the September 11 attacks urging Americans to remember that the world’s Muslims were not who he was going to war with.
“I understood right off the bat, Matt, that this was an ideological conflict, and people who murder the innocent are not religious people,” Bush told Today.
And asked bluntly whether he was for or against a ban on people travelling to the US from seven majority-Muslim countries, he said: “I am for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law.”
President Trump’s very first executive order suspended America’s refugee programme for 120 days, while banning Syrian refugees indefinitely, and temporarily stopped people entering the US from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Federal judges blocked that order, but Trump is expected to sign a new “streamlined” order this week.
The former president revealed just how important he believes the media’s role in America is, describing the press as “indispensable to democracy”.
“We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse power – whether it be here or elsewhere,” he said.
But the proliferation of media – with plenty more news sites and many of them partisan – means we’re living in a different world to the one in which Bush was president, he said.
And never was that more evident than during the election period.
Bush believes potential Russian meddling in the US election is a question that “needs to be answered”, with the FBI currently investigating and multiple congressional committees also pursuing investigations.
The Trump White House has said that the FBI has rubbished the claims, although the agency has made no public comment on its ongoing investigation.
Aides to Trump are alleged to have been in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 election, but Bush brought Putin up of his own accord while talking about press freedom.
Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2017
“One of the things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to convince a person like Vladimir Putin, for example, to accept the notion of an independent press,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves.”
As for the investigation, “I think we all need answers”, Bush said.
For many in America it feels like scary times, but Bush said there had been many times the country seemed just as divided when he was growing up.
“It requires a lot of people coming together to try to make us united.”
Do you remember when this man was considered a baffling choice to lead the world’s most powerful country? Simpler times.