President Trump won in the electoral college in 2016, but lost the popular vote by about 3 million ballots. (California, take a bow.) He is the president and cannot be removed against his will, except by impeachment or at the ballot box in 2020. But moral legitimacy is another matter.
The sinking sense that he really didn’t win fair and square — that he and a foreign power tipped the scales — has now been fortified by a raft of information unknown to voters when they cast their ballots. Consider all the things he concealed which, if known at the time, could possibly have swung about 80,000 votes in three states.
Thanks to the special counsel, the media and the Senate Intelligence Committee we know:
• Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leader of America’s most formidable international foe, hatched a multipronged, sophisticated plan to help Trump get elected. Trump got illegal foreign help. (Though it’s not like we’re going to indict Putin.)
• While Trump claimed he had no deals in Russia, his lawyer, Michael Cohen, pursued a Trump Tower deal as late as May 2016. Going back to 2013, Trump has made numerous efforts to strike deals in Russia — quite apart from the investment in his businesses from Russians.
• Russian figures allegedly used the National Rifle Association to support the Trump campaign. (Again, foreigners funneling money to a presidential campaign through another entity is illegal.)
• Donald Trump Jr., as well as foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, responded to and pursued offers from Russian-linked officials to help Trump get elected (by obtaining “dirt” on Hillary Clinton).
• Part of Putin’s plot apparently involved hacking into the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and then leaking the messages at the most propitious times during the campaign.
• At least one woman with whom Trump had an adulterous affair was paid hush money to keep quiet, a payment which was not disclosed as required by law.
• An extraordinary number of Trump campaign figures had an unprecedented number of contacts with Russian figures. (To the best of our knowledge, every other presidential campaign had exactly none).
The question is not only whether the Russian campaign (i.e., using social media; the well-timed release of hacked emails by WikiLeaks; staged campaign events) on behalf of Trump swayed enough voters to make up the gap in three critical states. We have to now consider that, but for the concealment of Trump’s connections, he would not have been elected. We know Trump thought the facts listed above were devastating, because why would he have gone to the trouble of concealing all these things if they were not potential deal-breakers for a large number of voters? When you cheat or lie, you see, you never know if you really won.
It is Trump’s own conduct that robs him of the certainty that he would have won, absent help from Russia and his scheme to conceal a host of Russia connections. We will never know — and he will never know — whether he is the first and only president to receive decisive help from a hostile foreign power.
We’ve already seen more than 100 charges, with indictments distributed among 19 people or entities, meaning a whole lot of witches have been hunted down. More importantly, the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is helping to pull the curtain back on the great deception of 2016, a breathtaking defilement of our democracy.