BUENOS AIRES – President Donald Trump on Saturday described former president George H.W. Bush as a "wonderful man" and said he spoke by phone with former president George W. Bush to express his "deepest sympathies."
In brief remarks at the G-20 summit in Argentina, Trump praised a presidential predecessor he has sometimes clashed with while in office and said he had cancelled a scheduled a press conference here out of respect for the Bush family.
"He was a very fine man," Trump said of Bush, who died Friday night in Houston at the age of 94. "He led a full life, and a very exemplary life, too."
Trump is meeting with world leaders at the G-20 summit, but the second day of the trip was likely to be overshadowed by Bush's death. Trump was holding a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his first public appearance on Saturday, when he made the remarks about Bush.
Trump said he still intends to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping late Saturday to discuss trade. That meeting is expected to be among the most important of his trip, but he suggested that Bush's death would influence the tenor of the encounter.
“The fact that we lost a president who truly was a wonderful person, a wonderful man, a great man – it really puts a damper on it, to be honest with you,” Trump said.
Trump demurred when asked by reporters if he regretted past criticism of both Bush and the extended Bush family.
"Thank you very much, everybody," he responded.
During a campaign rally in Montana this summer Trump criticized the "thousand points of lights" phrase coined by Bush during his 1988 presidential campaign.
"What the hell was that, by the way, thousand points of light? What did that mean? Does anyone know," said Trump. "I know one thing: Make America Great Again, we understand. Putting America first, we understand. Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one."