Former President Jimmy Carter said Friday that he believes Donald Trump would have lost the 2016 election without Russian help.
"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 in office because the Russians interfered on his behalf."
Carter was speaking in Leesburg, Virginia at a panel discussion on human rights hosted by the Carter Center. Carter was then asked by moderator Jon Meacham, a historian, if Trump was an illegitimate president.
“Based on what I said, which I can’t retract,” responded Carter, smiling.
Carter said Trump “himself should condemn it, admit that it happened, which I think 16 of the intelligence agencies have already agreed to say.”
Trump has strenuously rejected that Russian interference helped swing the 2016 presidential election in his favor.
You can watch the full panel discussion here.
Carter, 94, hasn’t shied away from commenting on current affairs, including issues about Trump's performance in the White House.
But Friday’s comments are his most critical yet about Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.
In an October 2017 interview with The New York Times, Carter questioned whether Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election changed “enough votes, or any votes” to matter.
While Carter has criticized Trump in the past, he also has praised him on occasion, saying he prays for him.
Earlier this month, while teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Carter said Trump made the correct call by not taking military action against Iran. Carter also has praised Trump for meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to avoid war.
But Carter, a Democrat, had harsh words for the policies of Trump, a Republican, last September at Emory University when he was asked what he would do if he became president again.
“I think the first thing I would do would be to change all of the policies that President Trump has initiated,” said Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981.
Stephen Colbert asked Carter on “The Late Show” in March 2018 if America wants “kind of a jerk” in the White House.
“Apparently, from this recent election year,” Carter answered, grinning. “I never knew it before.”
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