An Illegitimate President


Publish Date:
July 19, 2017
  • Truscott, Lucian K., IV
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What do you do when you have a president who was not legitimately elected? That is the question we face in the wake of revelations that Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, along with his campaign manager Paul Manafort, met with a gaggle of Russians last year in furtherance of a plot for the Russian government to help get Donald Trump elected president. You can spin that meeting at Trump Tower last June 9 any way you want, and Trump and his people are in danger of being attacked by anti-immigrant loons as whirling dervishes they’ve been spinning so fast, but the fact remains that the meeting took place and it had the stated purpose of receiving help from the Russian government in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Whether the meeting amounted to “collusion” is a silly question. Russian meddling all by itself, with or without the help of Trump and his minions, would make the election illegitimate, so whether the meeting was “legal” or not is immaterial at this point. In coming days and weeks, we are likely to hear that other meetings like it took place later in the campaign. We have reached a major turning point in the whole Trump/Russia story. They sought out and accepted help from elements of the Russian government in getting elected. It happened. The question remaining is, what do we do about it?

Pamela Karlan is a graduate of Yale Law School, currently professor of law at Stanford Law School and former Deputy Attorney General for Voting Rights in the Obama Justice Department, and frequent litigator before the Supreme Court. I reached her this week at her office in California with the question of this apparent hole in the Constitution. She pondered it with obvious relish. “There certainly isn’t anything written down,” she said. “The framers didn’t assume the kind of elections we have today, the election of the president by popular vote. They assumed it would be filtered through the electoral college. They certainly didn’t assume the kind of money involved today, or the fact that we would end up with only two political parties.”

The problem with Russian involvement in the campaign is that none of it may end up being illegal. Influencing voters with “bad information,” as Professor Karlan put it, is not illegal, maybe not even if it’s done by foreigners.

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