On Friday, January 13, 2017, Georgia Congressman John Lewis (D.-5th) told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that Donald Trump would not be, in seven days, a “legitimate president.” The only reason he gave was alleged Russian hacking in the November election that allegedly helped Trump and destroyed Hillary Clinton.
So, to be clear, Lewis did not rely on any allegation (there has been none) that the Russians manipulated balloting. Furthermore, he did not rely on any allegation (there has been none) that the Russians had disseminated misinformation such as documents forged in whole or in part. What remains of his complaint of alleged Russian interference are the disclosures by WikiLeaks (who allegedly received documents from Russian hackers) of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails – true and accurate emails that, among other things,
(1) in disclosures made in July and October, showed that the DNC bias, and actions, for Hillary Clinton over her opponent Bernie Sanders, and
(2), in a late October revelation, showed that the Clinton campaign was given debate questions in advance of a debate with Trump.
Surely, based on these truthful disclosures, Lewis has argued publicly that Hillary would not be, and later, was not, a legitimate nominee of the Democratic Party. Not so.
We could all acknowledge that candidate Trump benefited from the WikiLeaks and thus from alleged Russian activity. But no one, including Lewis, suggests that candidate Trump initiated the disclosures from WikiLeaks or Russian hacking, or contributed to it — not even when he stated on July 27 that, before Hillary arranged to have tens of thousands of documents sought by both the Justice Department and plaintiffs in civil lawsuits deleted from her servers, Russia might have come into possession of them.
The Russians had allegedly tried to hack the Republican National Committee (RNC), too, but they failed because the RNC had protected itself. By contrast, the DNC left its front door unlocked for all the world to enter. We should note that, in 1972, the DNC had locked the doors to its Watergate offices. Before and during 2016, the DNC did not lock its front door to protect its institutional emails. The DNC was as loose with its own security during this time as Hillary was with this nation’s security from 2009 to 2013 when she was Secretary, and continuing after she left office in 2013 — since her official emails remained on her private servers until after her private servers were discovered in March 2015.
Surely, based on the investigation of Hillary’s use of private servers as Secretary of State and continuing to maintain documents on her private servers after her term of office, Lewis has argued publicly that Hillary would not be fit for the office of presidency.
Lewis endorsed her, formally nominated her at the Democratic Convention, and stumped for her as late as November.
When it was discovered that Hillary had decided in 2009, when she was Secretary of State and had sworn her oath of office, to set up a private server (four in fact), she made several arguments. One was her personal convenience. Another was that she sought to protect her personal email (and she argued that the only emails among the tens of thousands she destroyed were personal). But we know that her personal servers, like the DNC, were susceptible to hacking — by the Russians or anyone else. She succeeded in protecting her personal emails only by destroying them, not because she had stored them on a personal server. It is little wonder that candidate Trump could believe in July 2016 that the Russians had hacked lots of emails from Hillary’s server and could release them (through WikiLeaks).
How is John Lewis a tool of Putin? It is generally assumed that, if there was hacking by the Russians, Putin was personally involved. It is also generally assumed that, whether one of his motives was to elect Trump over Hillary or not, Putin’s motive was to sow dissension and undermine the legitimacy of the November election. When Lewis stated that Trump is an illegitimate president, he became a tool of Putin.
What would John Lewis have Trump do?
Would he have had Trump withdraw before the Inauguration?
After Inauguration, under our Constitution, neither President Trump nor anyone else can call for a new election. Would John Lewis not have Trump act as president — not nominate Cabinet members? not propose legislation? not address the Congress or the country? not negotiate with foreign leaders? not command the armed services? Would he have Trump resign as president? If so, Pence would become president, but Pence benefited as much as Trump from the Russian hacking. This would leave Speaker Ryan. Would Lewis be satisfied with this?
Frankly, Lewis has acted as an extreme partisan. He has tried to “gum up the works,” to throw a wrench in the constitutional electoral process he has taken an oath to uphold. This is his second time. He did the same in connection with the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001. Lewis and his views on the legitimacy of the Trump presidency, shared by many, while protected by free speech, are a threat to the United States as a constitutional republic.
Lewis has a legitimate complaint about foreign interference with our election, but his complaint is with Hillary Clinton, the DNC, WikiLeaks and Russia, not with President Trump.
Maybe Lewis wants President Trump to apologize for benefiting from alleged Russian interference, although Trump did nothing except stand by and benefit. People have insisted over the course of the last months that Trump should apologize for various statements or acts and they have excoriated him when he doesn’t. Lewis should apologize to President Trump and to the country in the same way that Justice Ginsburg apologized in July 2016 for what she termed her “ill-advised” comments regarding candidate Trump. He should show himself, on a continuing basis, to be worthy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom he won in 2011.
When President Obama made this award, he remarked that Lewis was the “Conscience of the United States Congress.” Let him be so today and apologize. If Lewis does not apologize, we should excoriate him in the same words used by the chorus of delegates to the Constitutional Convention in the musical 1776 yelling at John Adams: “Sit down, John, sit down!”
Mark my words, Congressman: I know you’ve won 16 consecutive general elections to Congress, none by fewer than 69% of the vote, and six without an opponent (there’s democracy?).
But unless you work hard to bring jobs to your constituents, to educate your constituents, to make the streets safe for your constituents, your seat in Congress will be occupied by a Trump Republican in January 2019.
Spero columnist James Thunder is a Washington-based attorney. This article was first published at The American Spectator and appears here with permission.