Former President Jimmy Carter called into question Donald Trump’s legitimacy as president during a panel discussion hosted by the Carter Center on Friday.
Carter’s comments followed shortly after Trump, in Japan for the G20 Summit, wagged his finger at Vladimir Putin on camera, appearing to ridicule the idea of the threat of Russian interference in the US presidential election.
“I think the interference, although not yet quantified, if fully investigated would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016,” said Carter. “He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”
Carter was then asked whether this meant that he believed Donald Trump was an illegitimate president. He responded, ““Based on what I just said, which I can’t retract.”
We’ve become used to Trump’s denigrating anyone who disagrees with him or who exposes a fault or a lie of his. Trump frequently calls into question the legitimacy of even those public figures who are known for their uprightness (Robert Mueller and James Comey come immediately to mind). His intent frequently appears to be to cast doubt on the integrity or stability of the person.
But it’s unusual, if not unheard of, for a former U.S. president to so directly and sharply criticize a current president.
Inae Oh of Mother Jones noted, “The extraordinary comments marked some of the harshest language a former US president has ever directed at a sitting president.”
Though there is evidence that Russian interference did take place, we should remember that no proof was found that the Russians directly manipulated votes to ensure Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. On the other hand, many Trump supporters, and Trump himself, continue to argue that Russia had no influence on the election, and that is hardly plausible.
What is important to remember is that we don’t know for certain if Russian interference actually did cause the election outcome. Though Jimmy Carter’s comments may resonate, we can only consider what’s been proven when we go about citing evidence of illegitimacy.
We may never know for sure the magnitude of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Even if we put the issue of Russian interference aside, though, we should still consider that Trump won the 2016 election based on the number of electoral votes, not the number of popular votes. Though that legally made him president, perhaps we should start questioning the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency by questioning the integrity of how that institution works today.
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Former Pres. Jimmy Carter calls President Trump an “Illegitimate President” (C-SPAN) | [2019-06-28]