Juan Williams: Cloud of illegitimacy hangs over Trump

So now he admits it?

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump anti-reg push likely to end up in court Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel 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?

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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 ClintonStakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff Poll: Biden leads Trump by 5 points in Minnesota Pelosi makes fans as Democrat who gets under Trump's skin MORE.

That truth is so frightening to Trump that last year, while standing next to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinAmerica's post-COVID-19 foreign policy House Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia Overnight Defense: Trump to withdraw US from Open Skies Treaty | Pentagon drops ban on recruits who had virus | FBI says Corpus Christi shooting terror-related 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 McCainWhat does Joe Biden believe about NASA, space exploration and commercial space? The Memo: Activists press Biden on VP choice Biden takes page from Trump with public auditions for VP slot 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 call for probe into ouster of State Dept. watchdog Bipartisan lawmakers call for global 'wet markets' ban amid coronavirus crisis EPA defends suspension of pollution monitoring in letter to Congress 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 RogersBottom line Officials warn Chinese hackers targeting groups developing coronavirus treatments Hillicon Valley: Amazon VP resigns in protest | Republicans eye university ties to China | Support rises for vote by mail 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 DeSantisDisney, NBA talking about resuming games near Orlando Nursing homes need increased staffing, not legal immunity The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump spotted wearing a face mask MORE (R) and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOverwhelming majority of publicly traded firms have not returned small-business loans: review GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill COVID-19 makes Trump's work with black Americans that much harder 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 NielsenHillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers The 'accidental director' on the front line of the fight for election security 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 MulvaneyMick MulvaneyThe Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic Trump taps Brooke Rollins as acting domestic policy chief Navarro fuels tariff speculation: 'Bill has come due' for China 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 tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Press: King Donald's goal - no checks, no balances Trump faces criticism over lack of national plan on coronavirus 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.”

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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.