Former U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017.Reuters/Saul Loeb
George W Bush says “we all need answers” on possible links between President Donald Trump and the Russian government.
In some of his first remarks since Mr Trump became president, Mr Bush positioned himself firmly against many of his policies.
The former US president said the media was “indispensable to democracy”, in contrast to Mr Trump’s recent attacks on the press.
Speaking in an interview with NBC’s Today show, he also said he supported a “welcoming” immigration policy, and opposed President Trump’s controversial travel ban.
His comments on Russia came after Republican Congressman Darrell Issa called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate claims Russia interfered in the presidential election and was in touch with Trump advisers during the campaign.
Mr Bush didn’t rule out the possibility of a special prosecutor being appointed but said he trusted the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr to decide if it was necessary.
“I think we all need answers,” he said.
“I’m not sure the right avenue to take.”
“I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.”
The former Republican president also waded into the controversy surrounding Mr Trump’s criticism of the media, saying he didn’t agree with Mr Trump’s characterisation of the media as the “enemy of the people”.
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy… we need an independent 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, whether it be here or elsewhere.”
Mr Bush said during his time in office he attempted to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept the concept of an independent news media.
But, he said, “it’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent, free press” if we’re “not willing to have one ourselves”.
Mr Trump won the election after beating 16 Republican candidates, including Mr Bush’s brother Jeb, to secure the party’s nomination.
Asked whether he supported Mr Trump’s attempts to ban travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations, Mr Bush said: “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”
He said it would be harder to fight IS and other extremists if the US turns inwards.
“It’s very hard to fight the war on terrorism if we’re in retreat,” he said.