Former US President Jimmy Carter has suggested that Donald Trump’s presidency is “illegitimate” because he was elected with the help of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Carter, 94, made the comments on Friday at a panel on human rights in Leesburg, Virginia, hosted by the Carter Center.
“There’s no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election, and I think the interference, although not yet quantified, if fully investigated, would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016,” Carter said.
“He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf,” Carter added..
The panel’s moderator and presidential biographer Jon Meacham then asked Carter if he believes that Trump is an “illegitimate president.”
“Based on what I just said, which I can’t retract,” the former president responded to laughs from the audience. “I would say yes.”
Carter served as the 39th US president from 1977 to 1981. A Democrat, he also served as governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975.
Carter has been particularly critical of the nation’s direction under Trump’s leadership. He’s also criticized Trump’s foreign policy and accused him of deepening racial divisions.
Carter’s remarks came just after Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. During the meeting, Trump jokingly told Putin not to “meddle” in the next US election.
US intelligence agencies claim Moscow interfered in the 2016 US elections to boost Trump’s chances of defeating his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
In July 2016, the FBI began investigating Russian meddling in the election. In May 2017, US Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over the Russia probe from the FBI.
Mueller released his long-awaited report on the Russia probe in April after a two-year investigation, which concluded that Trump’s election campaign did not conspire with the Russian government, but did not determine whether the Republican president committed a crime.
After nearly three years of inquiries, Trump’s presidency is still clouded by the Russia scandal, which continues to be investigated by several committees of the US Congress.
Both Trump and Russia have repeatedly denied the accusations. Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt” and one fabricated by Democrats who are angry they lost the White House to a Republican.