Juan Williams: Cloud of illegitimacy hangs over Trump

So now he admits it?

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative 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 ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials MORE.

That truth is so frightening to Trump that last year, while standing next to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUS and Russia arms race would be detrimental to strategic stability Five things to watch as Trump heads to G-7 summit Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit 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 McCainCindy McCain says late husband would be 'very disappointed' with politics today What would John McCain do? Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China 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 MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 QuigleyLawmakers point to entitlements when asked about deficits Mueller Day falls flat Mueller on Trump's WikiLeaks embrace: 'Problematic is an understatement' 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 RogersConservatives lash out at CNN for hiring Andrew McCabe Hillicon Valley: House panel subpoenas 8chan owner | FCC takes step forward on T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Warren wants probe into FTC over Equifax settlement | Groups make new push to end surveillance program House Homeland Security Committee subpoenas 8chan owner 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 DeSantisFlorida first lady to miss Women for Trump event due to planned execution Florida governor orders criminal investigation into handling of Jeffrey Epstein case Groups ask court to block ex-felon voting law in Florida MORE (R) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China 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 NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role 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 MulvaneyTrump's latest plan to undermine Social Security Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report 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 KushnerTrump allies say A$AP Rocky was supposed to thank him but his team stopped 'returning our text messages': report President tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' 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.