Trump Denounces Expanded Russia Inquiry As A 'witch Hunt'

In a speech at a George W. Bush Institute event Thursday in New York, the 43rd president, who has largely avoided the political fray since leaving office, also denounced bigotry and bullying, saying civil discourse was needed. Mr. Bush didn’t mention his fellow Republican by name.

“We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism,” Mr. Bush said. “We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places.”

On immigration policy, he said: “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”

Mr. Bush’s rejection of bigotry came after Mr. Trump blamed “both sides” for violence in Charlottesville, Va., involving white supremacists and counterprotesters. Mr. Trump also regularly uses name-calling to belittle rivals or cajole lawmakers.

“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children,” he said. “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump has criticized trade deals as bad for U.S. workers, breaking with the traditional Republican stance on the issue. He pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asian countries and is currently pushing Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement on better terms for the U.S. As Texas governor and as president, Mr. Bush was a staunch advocate for Nafta as a vehicle for deepening ties between border communities and the two countries.

The Trump administration has stepped up enforcement of illegal immigration, increasing deportations and pushing for funding for an expanded border wall. Mr. Bush backed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2006 that included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but the bill died in Congress.

On U.S. involvement overseas, Mr. Trump has questioned the scope of America’s commitments, most notably pressing European allies to contribute more to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly criticized Mr. Bush for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, a decision Mr. Trump came to oppose.

In his speech, Mr. Bush said America must help frustrated workers hurt by globalization, but “we cannot wish globalization away. Any more than we can wish away the agriculture revolution or the industrial revolution.”

Traditionally, ex-presidents haven’t criticized their successors or their policies, making Mr. Bush’s critique of a fellow Republican president particularly unusual. Mr. Bush stayed quiet throughout the eight years of the Obama presidency. Barack Obama, since leaving office, has occasionally addressed Trump policy decisions, including criticizing his move in September to end protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

“President Obama almost has to do it, with his legacy and policies constantly under attack,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “But this is remarkable from a Republican and one who has said very little since leaving office and been clearly reluctant to join in the political fray.”

“Trump is testing the reluctance of ex-presidents to stay quiet. And they feel a sense of urgency to speak up about what’s going on and what they see as dangers to the country.”

Campaigning Thursday in support of Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor in New Jersey, Mr. Obama didn’t name or directly criticize Mr. Trump, but he said the state’s election represented an opportunity “to send a message to the world. That we are rejecting a politics of division. We are rejecting a politics of fear.”

In early 2016, Mr. Bush campaigned for his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was running against Mr. Trump for the Republican nomination. The former president stayed quiet during the general-election campaign and didn’t publicly back Mr. Trump or the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush also spoke about the investigations into Russia’s efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election and said the U.S. must protect its election systems.

“America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions,” he said, adding that the Russian government “has made a project of turning Americans against each other.” He said the effort “won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated.”

According to the January report from the U.S. intelligence community, the highest levels of the Russian government were involved in directing the electoral interference to boost Mr. Trump at the expense of Mrs. Clinton. Moscow has denied meddling in the U.S. election, and Mr. Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia and has called the controversy a “witch hunt.”

Write to Eli Stokols at [email protected]

Source : https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/george-w-bush-rejects-trump-stances-on-trade-and-immigration-1508439719

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