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Former President George W. Bush weighs in on Derek Chauvin trial

The 43rd president also spoke about the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, the Capitol riot and his new book about immigrants in his first live TV interview in three years.
/ Source: TODAY

Former President George W. Bush weighed in on the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin on TODAY Tuesday as the nation braces for a verdict in the trial of the death of George Floyd.

Bush covered a host of topics in his first live television interview in three years, including the anxiety of a nation where some cities have brought in the National Guard and businesses are boarding up as the country awaits the verdict following Monday's closing arguments in the Chauvin trial.

"I think the first thing is that people know that the trial has been conducted fairly and that rule of law reigns supreme in our judiciary," Bush told Hoda Kotb. "We'll see what a jury of his peers says. I think a lot of people have already made up their mind of what the verdict ought to be.

"All I can tell you is if the trial is not conducted fairly, there is an appeal process. One of the things that we learned after the storming of the Capitol is that our institutions held, and one of the institutions that's really important for the confidence of the American people is a fair judicial system. And I think that's what's playing out on our TVs right now."

Bush, 74, also expanded on previous comments about the riot at the Capitol building on Jan. 6 by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

"It kind of made me sick," he said. "Not kinda made me sick, it did make me sick. I felt ill. I just couldn't believe it.

"But the truth of the matter is I was optimistic that we would survive that because I believe so strongly in the institutional stability of our country. And it did survive."

The former president also shared his thoughts on President Joe Biden's announcement last week that the United States will fully withdraw its troops from Afghanistan on Sept. 11 in a symbolic gesture on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Bush was in his first term as president when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Biden reached out to Bush this month to tell him he was going to bring the troops home after 20 years.

"My first reaction was wow, these girls (in Afghanistan) are gonna have real trouble with the Taliban," Bush said. "A lot of gains have been made, and so I'm deeply concerned about the plight of women and girls in that country. I think we'll see, time will tell.

"I think the administration hopes that the girls are gonna be OK through diplomacy. We'll find out. All I know is the Taliban when they had the run of the place, they were brutal."

Bush has also written a new book called "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants," in which he shares the stories of men and women who have immigrated to the United States. He celebrated the book's release by taking part in a naturalization ceremony on Rockefeller Plaza Tuesday in which 30 people officially became U.S. citizens.

The book by the 43rd president also includes 43 portraits he painted, from famous faces like former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, to figures like Jeanne Celestine Lakin, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide that claimed the lives of her family.

Painting has become a passion for Bush in his post-presidency years. He painted portraits of military veterans for his 2017 book, "Portraits of Courage," and in January, TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager shared a picture her father painted of her 1-year-old son, Hal, as a Christmas gift.

Former President George W. Bush's new book, "Out of Many, One," features portraits he painted of 43 immigrants to America. Crown Publishing

Lakin, the Rwandan genocide survivor, and two other subjects in the new book have traveled to see the paintings in person.

Lebanon civil war survivor and Texas de Brazil steakhouse chain founder Salim Asrawi and Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant and the founder of the Greek yogurt brand Chobani, met with the former president recently at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the museum and archive of Bush's presidency in Dallas.

The new paintings will be on exhibit there through Jan. 3, 2022, and Bush intends to donate a portion of his book proceeds to organizations that help immigrants resettle.

Immigration continues to be a hot-button issue, with 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and almost 20,000 unaccompanied minors looking for refuge at the southern border. Bush said the immigration system needs to be reformed, with more judges and courts "so people can have a fair hearing" in asylum cases, as well as changes to work visas.

Bush's views on immigration put him at odds with the majority of the Republican party.

"I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist, and to a certain extent, nativist," Bush said about the Republican party. "That's not exactly my vision, but I'm just an old guy they put out to pasture. Just a simple painter."

The 43rd president expanded on his vision for immigration when talking with Asrawi, Ulukaya and Lakin at his presidential center.

"So here's what I hope Americans take away from the discussions and your stories," Bush told them on TODAY. "We're all God's children, and every life is precious. And if you start with that, with love in your heart, as opposed to anger in your heart, or suspicion in your heart, then all of a sudden these problems are more easy to solve.

"And that by welcoming people — obviously within the law — but welcoming people really makes us a better nation. And here's three citizens that have made us a better nation, and we're very grateful."