Jeb Bush says he hasn’t yet made a decision to run for president, but plans to do so soon, rejecting accusations from watchdog groups that have accused the former Florida governor of breaking campaign finance laws.
In a Face the Nation interview, Bush said he was "nearing the end of a journey" but had yet to make a final decision.
"I hope I’m a candidate in the near future," Bush said, adding that he will travel in a week to Germany, Poland, and Estonia "and after that, I’ll have to make up my mind."
Campaign finance groups have called for the Department of Justice to investigate whether Bush is violating campaign finance laws by not formally entering the race, but campaigning in key primary states and raising millions for a political action committee that backs him. But Bush said he said he would "never" break the law.
"We’re going to completely adhere to the law, for sure," he said.
He chalked up the criticism to politics.
"There’s always people that are going to be carping on the sidelines," he said. "And should I be a candidate, and that will be in the relatively near future where that decision will be made, there’ll be no coordination at all with any super PAC."
In the wide ranging interview that was taped Saturday and aired on retiring host Bob Schieffer’s final day with CBS, Bush also said he believes the nation’s security will be in jeopardy if the Senate fails today to reauthorize provisions of the Patriot Act — including collection of Americans’ phone calls.
"It’s not a violation of civil liberties," Bush said of the provisions that were started under his brother, George W. Bush. "There's no evidence, not a shred of evidence, that the metadata program has violated anybody's civil liberties."
His remarks come as a rebuke to potential presidential rival, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has pledged not to strike any deal to allow a vote on renewing the Patriot Act before it expires at midnight tonight.
Bush also criticized the Clinton Foundation for not disclosing millions of dollars of contributions from foreign governments when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, pointing out that an agreement between Clinton and the administration called for exactly that.
"It turns out that the rules don't always apply consistently for the Clintons," Bush said. "The reason why transparency was suggested by the Obama administration was to avoid the exact problem we now face, which is the implication of favoritism."
"The net result was they did some but they didn't do 'em all. And now you have this doubt. It's inappropriate."
Bush said he doesn’t believe his brother will be his biggest challenge in the race, but said he plans to distance himself.
"This is hard for me, to be honest with you, I have to do the Heisman on my brother, that I love," he said. "This is not something I'm comfortable doing."
He said he seeks out his brother’s advice and has learned "from his successes and his mistakes."
He called his brother’s successes "protecting the homeland" after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — but faulted him for allowing federal spending to balloon.
"Because of the war and because of the focus on protecting the homeland, I think he let the Republican Congress get a little out of control, in terms of the spending," he said.
Bush said his wife, Columba, and his three children are "totally all in" for a presidential campaign.
"They know how ugly it can be and it's hard for a family," he said. "It's easier as a candidate. You can kind of slough it off when the attacks start. But we're at an ugly time, politically. And one of the, I think, next challenges for the next president is to restore some civility in our political process."