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George W. Bush on US Capitol insurrection: ‘I’m still disturbed when I think about it’

“I can’t remember what I was doing, but … I was sick to my stomach … to see our nation’s Capitol being stormed by hostile forces,” Bush said in an interview with The Texas Tribune as part of the SXSW virtual festival that was recorded February 24 and made public Thursday. “And it really disturbed me to the point where I did put out a statement, and I’m still disturbed when I think about it.”

The episode, Bush said, “undermines rule of law and the ability to express yourself in peaceful ways in the public square.”

“This was an expression that was not peaceful,” he added.

Bush had joined the three other living former US presidents in condemning the Capitol attack in its immediate aftermath, charging in a statement at the time: “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic.”

“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement,” he said. “The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a constitutionally mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”

The Justice Department has now charged more than 65 people for assaulting law enforcement but is still seeking information to identify others involved in assaults during the insurrection, according to a news release on Thursday.

The assault cases are some of the most serious among more than 300 people arrested on charges stemming from the Capitol riot, which left five people dead, including a US Capitol Police officer, and injured more than 100 law enforcement officials.

Asked directly during the interview whether the election was stolen, Bush replied: “No.”

The former President has largely stayed out of politics since leaving office in January 2009. He was only an occasional presence on the campaign trail in 2016, when his brother — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — ran against then-candidate Donald Trump and others in the Republican presidential primary.

Still, he periodically offered thinly veiled shots at Trump during Trump’s time in office.

In 2017, Bush gave a speech in New York condemning bigotry and White supremacy while endorsing policies that ran counter to those supported by Trump.

“Our identity as a nation, unlike other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. … This means that people from every race, religion, ethnicity can be full and equally American,” he said during remarks at the George W. Bush Institute in New York City. “It means that bigotry and White supremacy, in any form, is blasphemy against the American creed.”

He added that “bigotry seems emboldened,” though he didn’t explain why.



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