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Jimmy Carter Says He Sees Trump As An Illegitimate President

Former President Jimmy Carter says President Trump would not have won the 2016 election without help from Russia, commenting shortly after Trump made a smiling appearance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Japan.

Carter, a Democrat, said that he views Trump, a Republican, as an illegitimate president.

Speaking at a Carter Center event at a resort in Leesburg, Va., on Friday, the former president was asked how the U.S. should respond to Russia's involvement in the presidential election that put Trump into office.

Carter replied:

"Well, the president himself should condemn it, admit that it happened, which I think 16 [of the] intelligence agencies have already agreed to say. And 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. He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf."

The former president seemed to be referring to a 2017 analysis from the Director of National Intelligence, which, while speaking for 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, was specifically relying on three of those agencies — the CIA, FBI and NSA — when it said the U.S. intelligence community had concluded Russia interfered in the election. Other agencies then affirmed the conclusion.

Carter's remarks came during a discussion on human rights that also featured his former vice president, Walter Mondale. After Carter answered the question about Russia's interference in Americans' democratic process, moderator Jon Meacham asked a follow-up: "So, do you believe President Trump is an illegitimate president?"

Carter paused, prompting some in the audience to laugh. He then replied, "Based on what I just said, which I can't retract, I would say yes."

Hours before Carter was quizzed about Trump and the U.S. relationship with Russia, Trump was meeting with Putin in Japan during the G-20 economic summit. During a joint photo op, journalists shouted a question to Trump, asking him if he will tell Putin not to interfere in the upcoming 2020 election.

"Yes, of course, I will," Trump replied. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, "He then turned to Putin and said, 'Don't meddle in the election,' wagging his finger in mock sternness."

As Trump spoke, Putin smiled.

Their encounter was markedly different from the public meeting between Putin and British Prime Minister Theresa May in Osaka, Japan.

In photos from their meeting, a grave-looking May clasps Putin's hand. During their time together, NPR's Lucian Kim reports, May pressed Putin for answers about the use of an exotic nerve agent to poison former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

As for what Trump and Putin discussed in their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 conference, the U.S. president said their agenda included trade and disarmament. In a summary about the session, the White House said the two leaders also agree that relations between Russia and the U.S. should improve.

"We've had great meetings," Trump said just before the bilateral session began. He added, "We have had a very, very good relationship. And we look forward to spending some pretty good time together. A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.