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Bush Slams Russian Effort to 'Exploit Our Country's Divisions'

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that Russian cyber-attacks during the 2016 election were an effort to turn "Americans against each other" as Moscow sought to exploit "our country's divisions.
Image: George W. Bush
Former President George W. Bush at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Thursday.Seth Wenig / AP

Former President George W. Bush on Thursday chastised Russia for alleged cyberattacks during the 2016 election, charging it was an effort to turn "Americans against each other" and "exploit our country's divisions."

Bush urged America to "harden its own defenses" in the face of "external attacks on our democracy."

In remarks at a forum in New York held by the organization that runs his presidential library, Bush said the Russian cyberattacks amounted to a "sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country's divisions."

"The Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other," the former president said. "Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy and that begins with confronting a new era of cyber-threats."

Bush also addressed race relations in the U.S.

"People of every race, religion, ethnicity," he said, are "equally American. Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed."

"We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty," added Bush. "At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together."

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Bush did not mention President Donald Trump and a Bush spokesman told NBC News that the former president was not criticizing Trump. "These are the same themes President Bush has spoken on for the last two decades," said the spokesman, Freddy Ford.

Bush, who has remained largely quiet throughout the first nine months of Trump’s presidency, also said that the "economic, political, and national security challenges" the U.S. faces "are made worse by the tendency to turn inward."

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"We cannot wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution," he said. "One strength of free society is the ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions and that should be our goal."