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Carter: Trump is an illegitimate president, won because of Russia

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Former President Jimmy Carter called President Donald Trump an illegitimate president and said he only won his 2016 election because of state-sponsored Russian interference to benefit him.

Carter, who is 94 years old and served as America’s 39th president from 1977 to 1981, made the controversial comments alongside his Vice President Walter Mondale at a June 28 human rights forum hosted in Leesburg, Virginia and moderated by presidential scholar Jon Meacham.

“There’s no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election. I think the interference, although it’s not quantified, a full investigation would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election, and was put into office because of the Russians interfering on his behalf,” Carter said.

When Meacham followed up and asked if Carter believed Trump was an illegitimate president, Carter said, “based on what I just said which I can’t retract, yes.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Carter’s remarks. Carter is the first former president to say Trump’s election was illegitimate.

The redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report, released April 18, confirmed the conclusions of every US intelligence agency that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election to benefit the Trump campaign, but did not investigate whether the inference played a part in Trump’s victory.

Read more: Don’t meddle in the election’: Trump appears to joke with Putin as they meet at G20 summit for the first time since Mueller report

Carter’s comments came after Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to laugh off Russia’s election interference when the two leaders met at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

When asked by a reporter if Trump would warn Putin not to interfere in the upcoming 2020 election, Trump jokingly pointed at Putin and said, “of course I will, don’t meddle in the election,” eliciting laughs and smiles from Putin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Mueller report identified two separate Russian interference efforts: a targeted campaign that waged cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and an online disinformation effort spearheaded by a firm called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The Mueller report described in great detail how the Internet Research Agency (IRA) weaponized social media both to spread inflammatory content supporting now-President Donald Trump and opposing Hillary Clinton — including organizing real-life protests and events.

In February of 2018, the special counsel’s office indicted 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian companies on charges of conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with the online disinformation campaigns.

Read more: All the times Trump campaign figures shared false information sponsored by Russia that were included in the Mueller report

In July of that year, the special counsel’s office further indicted 12 Russian security officers for aggravated computer hacking, identity theft, and money laundering in connection with the hacks on the DNC and the Clinton campaign leading up to the election.

While the report documented extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to charge Trump or anyone associated with his campaign with conspiracy.

The report did say that “the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome” and the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

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