The Administration

John Lewis has a point in questioning Trump’s legitimacy

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This month marks civil rights leader John Lewis’s 30th year serving in the United States Congress, a public service career that began decades after he led protests for racial equality and human rights justice. 

He is respected and admired well beyond the walls of our Capitol because throughout his lifetime his voice has never stopped speaking truth to power.

That’s why when Lewis says “I don’t see the President-Elect as a legitimate president” people listen. When he chooses to skip Trump’s presidential inaugural it sends a message.

Trump and his team have protested Lewis’ comments because they base legitimacy upon being duly elected. Fair enough. Trump won the election, and still there is no firm evidence his campaign colluded with Russia to influence its outcome.

But legitimacy isn’t just based on a legal standard. Legitimacy is also judged in the hearts and minds of people — and that’s where Trump’s legitimacy has been undermined, mostly by himself and his own team.

{mosads}Let’s begin with Trump’s team. He surrounded himself with operatives and advisers with ties to Russia and pro-Russian financiers, including one hired by Trump as campaign manager who later resigned under pressure after reports surfaced that he was the subject of a federal investigation related to his foreign business. Another Trump adviser admitted that he had “back-channel communication with [Wikileaks’ Julian] Assange.”

These are people Trump chose as his political advisors.

There are questions and unknowns about Trump’s business interests in Russia and throughout the world and his ties to people close to Putin. Trump says there are no ties, no conflicts, with Russia or Putin friends but he refuses to release his tax returns which could help answer questions and ease anxiety among many concerned Americans.

 During the campaign Trump publicly encouraged Russia to meddle in our elections by acquiring Hillary Clinton’s private e-mails. He called Putin a stronger leader than President Obama. He defended Russia by denying their involvement with the DNC hacking and he sided with Russia over U.S. intelligence agencies. These actions created added suspicion that there must be a motivation for Trump being too friendly with Russia. Trump had the power to avoid it all.

After the election, he did not course correct. Despite suspicion surrounding his advisors’ ties to Russia, he still nominated Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Tillerson not only has ties to Russia, he is Putin’s friend.

Trump’s transition first denied having communication with Russia around the time President Obama announced new Russian sanctions but news reports now detail five calls between Trump’s National Security Advisor and Russia’s ambassador. Calls that were so friendly that they both wished each other a “Merry Christmas.” These are more causes for concern that they alone created.  

Even when Trump finally stated that he thought Russia was responsible for the DNC hacking he soon added that it is possible Russian sanctions could be lifted.  It seems odd and suspicious to raise the possibility of lifting sanctions shortly after the same foreign adversary had launched a cyber-attack on our country.

Russian attempts to influence our election should not be surprising.

But the idea that Trump or his advisers may have actively encouraged them to do it should make anyone question the president-elect’s legitimacy, regardless of how effective or ineffective the effort had been. 

While there is no evidence yet that Trump and his team colluded with Russia they did co-author a narrative that invites suspicion and their actions alone are to blame for new questions being raised about his legitimacy.

Donald Trump may be the legitimately-elected President of the United States but in the hearts and minds of some legitimacy still needs to be earned and for others like John Lewis, it has already been lost.

Bud Jackson is a Democratic strategist, president of Jackson Group Media and chair of American Working Families, an independent organization that supports candidates and issues vital to working families.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Democrats Donald Trump Donald Trump Election Hacking Hillary Clinton Inauguration John Lewis Michael Flynn Russia WikiLeaks

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