Former President Jimmy Carter said Friday that he believes President Donald Trump only won the 2016 election because Russia interfered to help him defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“There’s no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the elections 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 at an event in Leesburg, Va.
“He lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf,” Carter said.
When asked by moderator and historian Jon Meacham if he believed Trump was then an “illegitimate” president, Carter replied: “Based on what I just said, which I can’t retract.”
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment on Carter’s remarks Friday.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in “sweeping and systematic fashion” in order to help Trump prevail over Clinton. Neither Mueller nor the U.S. intelligence community has said that Russia’s efforts, which included hacking Democratic organizations and spreading disinformation, contributed directly to Trump’s election.