On Friday, at the G20 in Japan, a smiling Donald Trump implicitly trolled his own intelligence chiefs and mocked US law enforcement.
Asked by a reporter if he would press Vladimir Putin on election interference ahead of 2020, the US president pointed at the Russian delegation seated opposite Mike Pompeo and said “Don’t meddle in the election”.
Putin smirked. Everyone smiled. Everyone laughed.
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Robert Mueller’s report validated what has been proven time and again. Namely that the Kremlin intervened in the 2016 election in an effort to undermine the Clinton campaign, sow domestic discord and assist Donald Trump in his bid for the White House.
Of course, there’s no way to say, definitively, whether Trump would have won or not without Russia’s efforts. Clinton’s voice is akin to nails on a chalkboard for some voters and, despite her resume, many Americans harbor a deep-seated aversion to the former first lady and top US diplomat. Indeed, one of the great ironies of whole “never Trump” movement is that there is most assuredly a “never Hillary” community in America too, and that community includes some Democratic voters.
Anyway, Trump has always been loath to accept the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the election. While part of that was attributable to his fear of the Mueller probe proving actual coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, Trump’s reluctance to say, definitively, that Russia intervened is also down to his massive ego. We are, after all, talking about a president who still refuses to admit he lost the popular vote and to this day insists there was massive voter fraud despite having won.
Given the proximity of the 2020 vote and also Robert Mueller’s looming testimony on Capitol Hill, Trump won’t be pleased to learn that, on Thursday, former president Jimmy Carter said that were it not for Russia, Hillary would be in the Oval Office.
“I think a full investigation would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf”, Carter said, adding that the president should condemn Russia for election meddling.
His comments came at a Leesburg, Virginia event on human rights hosted by the Carter Center.
Pressed by historian Jon Meacham (who moderated the panel discussion) on whether he believes Trump is an “illegitimate president”, Carter skipped a beat before saying: “Based on what I said, which I can’t retract”.
Commenting further on Russian meddling, Carter implored Trump to come around to reality. “[Just] admit that it happened”, he said.
Don’t hold your breath, Mr. President.