Jimmy Carter says Trump only won the election because Russia 'interfered on his behalf'

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By Dartunorro Clark  with NBC News Politics
IMage: Jimmy Carter attends a football game in Atlanta on Sept. 30, 2018.
Jimmy Carter attends a football game in Atlanta on Sept. 30, 2018.   -   Copyright  Scott Cunningham Getty Images file

Former President Jimmy Carter suggested Friday that President Donald Trump is an illegitimate president who only won the 2016 election because of Russia's election meddling.

"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. "He lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf."

Carter made the comments during a discussion on human rights at a conference in Leesburg, Virginia, sponsored by the Carter Center, which included his former vice president, Walter Mondale, as a panelist.

Carter told the moderator, historian Jon Meacham, that Trump should "condemn" the Kremlin's interference in the election since the American intelligence community concluded Russia meddled in the election.

"Do you believe President Trump is an illegitimate president?" Meacham asked.

"Based on what I just said, which I can't retract, I would say yes," Carter responded, drawing laughter from the audience.

Trump has said he agrees with the intelligence agencies' assessment on Russian interference, but he has also claimed that others could also be responsible.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller said at a May press conference following the conclusion of his two-year Russia probe that Russian figures, through "sophisticated cyber techniques" like hacking computer networks and email accounts and posing as Americans on social media, had "launched a concerted attack on our political system."

"There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American," Mueller said.

While in Japan for the G20 summit, a reporter asked Trump on Friday if he would tell Russia not to meddle in U.S. elections.

"The answer to the question is, of course I will," Trump said, standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Don't meddle in the election," Trump said. As Putin smiled broadly, Trump briefly raised his finger toward Putin before turning away and repeating: "Don't meddle in the election."