“I believe in forgiveness, I believe in trying to work with people,” he says, before adding that Trump is illegitimate and he won’t attend the inauguration. Okay.
Lindsey Graham used his own spot on “Meet the Press” last week to reassure Trump that Russia’s critics aren’t questioning his legitimacy as president. You can believe that Russia hacked the DNC and John Podesta to try to influence the campaign, that that’s a gravely serious offense given the stakes, and that Trump would have won anyway because, in the end, the Russia/Wikileaks stuff didn’t matter that much. Graham’s calculation was that Trump would feel more comfortable blaming Russia for the hacks himself if he didn’t think doing so would undermine his own authority as president. And that calculation may have worked: Trump did in fact finally blame Russia at Wednesday’s press conference.
But now Democrats have evidently decided to go all-in on delegitimizing him over Russia, first with Brian Fallon and here with the much more prominent Lewis. Big-name Dems have mostly held off until now on squarely accusing Trump of having won because of Russia’s help; the fact that two of them are suddenly saying this today makes me wonder if there’s a new coordinated messaging plan at work. It would make sense too that that would involve Lewis, as he’s the Democrats’ go-to guy when they need extra moral authority for their position on something by dint of his civil-rights-era activism. It may be that Lewis’s statement is a cue to the rest of the party to go ahead and start overtly questioning Trump’s right to be president in their own statements.
It’s going to drive Trump nuts and possibly bait him into attacking Lewis on Twitter, which Dems will naturally use to call Trump a racist who doesn’t care about civil rights. The more important question is what it’ll do to his Russia policy if suddenly half the people in Congress are all but accusing him of having been installed as president by Putin. Does that force him to get tough with Putin, on the theory that he needs to prove his independence from Moscow, or does it give him more freedom to make nice with Putin? After all, the more Democrats attack Trump over Russia, the more the right will come to view Russia policy as a wholly partisan issue, with Trump’s position to be defended at all costs. That’s exactly what Graham was afraid of, in fact — by backing up Trump’s claims to legitimacy, he hoped to nudge him towards be more hawkish on Russia. Now, with Democrats attacking and Trump aware that he can count on Republicans to back him up no matter what? Who knows.
Good catch by the Weekly Standard, by the way, in remembering that Lewis also questioned George W. Bush’s legitimacy after the 2000 election. No one would dare criticize Lewis that’s to the left of, say, John Kasich, which includes virtually the entirety of the media. Why not smear a Republican or two if you’re him?