Juan Williams: Cloud of illegitimacy hangs over Trump
So now he admits it?
President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel seeks to block Pentagon funds for border wall Giuliani evokes Joseph McCarthy in criticism of Pelosi Giuliani evokes Joseph McCarthy in criticism of Pelosi MORE recently tweeted that investigations into allegations of collusions with Russia were unfair “because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”
Uh, Mr. Trump, you’ve now admitted that Russia acted to put you in the White House?
Of course, within hours Trump reverted to denying Russia helped him: “Russia did not get me elected,” he told reporters asking about the tweet.
Trump is afraid of the truth regarding Russia’s help because it opens the door for Americans to see him as an illegitimate president.
And if he admits he is in the White House by accident, then his campaign for reelection starts in a big hole. Voters will have to face the ugly reality that he is president only because Russia twisted the 2016 race.
By the way, there is no question that Russia worked to get him elected.
U.S. intelligence agencies stated unequivocally in January 2017 that Russia interfered for the express purpose of boosting Trump and defeating his Democratic opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhat I saw at the last impeachment: Rules are for little people Iowa poll makes waves among 2020 Democrats Iowa poll makes waves among 2020 Democrats MORE.
That truth is so frightening to Trump that last year, while standing next to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinForeboding historical rhymes alert us to dangers to peace and stability Foreboding historical rhymes alert us to dangers to peace and stability Democrats push to make national security a 2020 wedge issue MORE, he said he believed Putin’s denials of interference and not the findings of America’s own intelligence agencies.
That jaw-dropping statement at the Helsinki summit in July 2018 was famously described by the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGeorge Conway blasts Trump: We could use a Reagan in the White House George Conway blasts Trump: We could use a Reagan in the White House Meghan McCain praises ‘brilliant troll’ move of projecting image of USS John McCain during Trump UK visit MORE (R-Ariz.) as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Even now, Trump persists in telling people at his rallies that the “deep state” is selling a “Russia hoax.”
Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff says Intel panel will hold ‘series’ of hearings on Mueller report Schiff says Intel panel will hold ‘series’ of hearings on Mueller report Key House panel faces pivotal week on Trump MORE in fact found numerous contacts between Russia and the Trump camp but concluded there was insufficient evidence for an indictment.
Recall the final words from Mueller at his press conference last month, when he asked Americans to focus on the “central allegation of our indictments — that there were multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”
Mueller’s warning is chilling because the crime continues.
Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyHouse subcommittee approves funding bill with 0 million for election security House subcommittee approves funding bill with 0 million for election security Mueller seeks quiet retreat from public life MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said this explicitly last year.
“I am concerned the Russians never left,” he said, adding that the Russians hacked “between 20 and 40 state board of elections” in 2016.
Then-National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersFacebook defends decision to keep up Pelosi video Ocasio-Cortez defends Dem lawmaker who said child migrant deaths were ‘intentional’ GOP strikes Democrat’s comments after she confronts acting DHS chief on migrant deaths MORE was famously asked last year by the Senate Armed Services Committee if the White House had ordered him to do more to stop future Russian interference in elections.
Rogers said it had not.
“President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore ‘I can continue this activity,’” added Rogers. “Clearly what we have done hasn’t been enough.”
In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisDHS inspecting North Carolina election equipment amid fears Russia hacked it during 2016 election DHS inspecting North Carolina election equipment amid fears Russia hacked it during 2016 election Florida senators back push for federal help with red tide MORE (R) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Health Care: Liberals rip Democratic leaders for writing drug pricing bill in secret | Dems demand answers from company that shelters migrant kids | Measles cases top 1,000 Overnight Health Care: Liberals rip Democratic leaders for writing drug pricing bill in secret | Dems demand answers from company that shelters migrant kids | Measles cases top 1,000 GOP senators ask PhRMA for solutions to lower drug prices MORE (R-Fla.) said Russian hackers accessed voting data in two Florida counties.
“Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians,” according to a “Worldwide Threat Assessment” from U.S. intelligence agencies issued in January.
But when then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenActing DHS chief calls for detention of families through hearing process Acting DHS chief calls for detention of families through hearing process Mexico emerged from negotiations with US with its ‘dignity intact,’ official says MORE expressed concern to White House officials that Russia interfered with the 2018 midterms, she was told, according to the New York Times, “not to bring it up in front of the president.”
The White House chief of staff, Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Economy adds 75K jobs in May | GOP senator warns tariffs will wipe out tax cuts | Trump says ‘good chance’ of deal with Mexico On The Money: Economy adds 75K jobs in May | GOP senator warns tariffs will wipe out tax cuts | Trump says ‘good chance’ of deal with Mexico Kraninger’s CFPB gives consumers the tools to help themselves MORE, according to the Times, made it clear to Nielsen that Trump “still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory.”
Maybe that explains why the Trump White House has done away with its cybersecurity coordinator.
Maybe that is why Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerPrisoner released under First Step Act thanks Trump, Kushner in viral video Prisoner released under First Step Act thanks Trump, Kushner in viral video Trump to host emir of Qatar in July MORE, the president’s son-in-law, still describes Russia’s role in the 2016 election as nothing more than “a couple Facebook ads.”
The reality, in the words of FactCheck.org, is that the Mueller report found Russia conducted a “sophisticated, years-long hacking and social media effort to influence an election.”
Incredibly, Kushner later told Axios that he is not sure that he would alert the FBI if he received an email, similar to one he received in 2016, suggesting that Russia was willing to help a future Trump campaign:
“It’s hard to do hypotheticals,” he said.
Americans can see through the Trump team’s attitude.
A Monmouth University poll taken last month found 60 percent of Americans think the government is not doing enough to stop Russian interference.
The press, members of Congress and the American people need to ask themselves which is more important: protecting the president’s fragile ego or protecting the integrity of democratic elections?
Whatever your answer, there is no way to save the Trump presidency from being tainted by the cloud of illegitimacy.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Juan Williams, opinion contributor)
More at https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/447654-juan-williams-cloud-of-illegitimacy-hangs-over-trump