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George W. Bush Throws Shade At Donald Trump

The 43rd president spoke out about the need for a free press, but later said he didn’t mean to criticize his successor.

28/02/2017 6:21 AM AEDT | Updated 28/02/2017 6:21 AM AEDT

Former President George W. Bush took President Donald Trump's administration to task on Monday.

The 43rd president called for a "welcoming" immigration policy and underscored the importance of a free press during an interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show.

"I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy," Bush told Lauer. "We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive."

Bush recalled spending time during his presidency attempting to convince other world leaders, specifically Russian President Vladimir Putin, to "accept the notion of a free press."

"It's kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press if we're not willing to have one ourselves," Bush said.

The former president's comments contrast deeply with Trump's attacks on the media. Trump has taken an aggressive stance against the press since taking office, labeling the fourth estate "the opposition party" in January and "the enemy of the American people" earlier this month.

Bush also called the right to worship freely a "bedrock of our freedom" and took a dig at Trump's January executive order on immigration, which sought to indefinitely ban Syrian refugees and temporarily block visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.

"I understood right off the bat ... that [the executive order] was an ideological conflict," Bush told Lauer. "I am for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law."

A federal judge in Washington state temporarily halted the order nearly a week after it was signed. Less than a week later, a federal court ultimately denied the Trump administration's request to restore the order. The administration will not pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court, but instead plans to create a new executive order.

Lauer also asked Bush about the FBI's current investigation into alleged ties between Trump associates and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"I think we all need answers," Bush said. "I have great faith in Richard Burr, for example. He's the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee ― really good guy and an independent thinker. If he were to recommend a special prosecutor, then it would have a lot more credibility with me."

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national security advisor earlier this month after the White House revealed he had "misled" Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had in December with a Russian ambassador. Three more Trump associates are also being investigated by the FBI for alleged links to the Kremlin during the campaign. Still, the Trump administration has repeatedly denied reports about the issue from The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said a federal judge in New York temporarily halted President Donald Trump's immigration order nearly a week after it was signed. That judge was in Washington state.

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