Juan Williams: Cloud of illegitimacy hangs over Trump

So now he admits it?

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 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?

ADVERTISEMENT

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 ClintonYang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Top GOP legislator in California leaves party GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE.

That truth is so frightening to Trump that last year, while standing next to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties We have now reached a code red moment in American democracy Jane Harman: NATO must use its brain cells to battle these threats 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 McCainLessons of the Kamala Harris campaign Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Top Armed Services Democrat scolds military leaders on Trump's intervention in war crimes cases 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 MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by 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 QuigleyDemocrats vow court victories won't slow impeachment timeline Most US birds are facing extinction unless we take action Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' 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 RogersHillicon Valley: FCC moves against Huawei, ZTE | Dem groups ask Google to reconsider ads policy | Bill introduced to increase data access during probes House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Red-state governors races pose test for Trump 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 DeSantisOvernight Defense: Suspect in Pensacola shooting identified as Saudi aviation student | Trump speaks with Saudi king after shooting | Esper denies considering 14K deployment to Mideast Suspect in deadly Pensacola air station shooting a Saudi national Three dead, several injured in Pensacola naval station shooting MORE (R) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Three dead, several injured in Pensacola naval station shooting 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 NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official 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 MulvaneyGiuliani meets with fired Ukrainian prosecutor who pushed Biden, 2016 claims: report Fox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats The key impeachment hearings are before an appeals court, not the House Judiciary panel 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 KushnerDemocrat calls for investigation of possible 'inappropriate influence' by Trump in border wall contract Judge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Mueller witness linked to Trump charged in scheme to illegally funnel money to Clinton campaign 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Say what?

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.