George Bush: ‘Pretty clear evidence Russia meddled’ in US election

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George W Bush has said there is “pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled” in the 2016 US presidential election, forcefully rebutting Donald Trump’s denials that Moscow tried to affect the vote.

While never mentioning Trump by name, Bush, the US president from 2001 to 2009, appeared to be pushing back at Trump’s attempts to foster warmer relations with Russia.

The White House did not immediately comment on Bush’s remarks.

“There’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled,” Bush said at a talk in the United Arab Emirates. “Whether they affected the outcome is another question.”

He also said: “It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.”

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Numerous investigations are under way to determine whether Trump’s campaign aided the Kremlin in its efforts. Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia.

Bush said the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had “a chip on his shoulder … because the demise of the Soviet Union troubles him. Therefore, much of his moves [are] to regain Soviet hegemony.”

He stressed the need to back Nato and other alliances the US has with the rest of the world. Putin was “pushing, constantly pushing, probing weaknesses. That’s why Nato is very important,” Bush said.