It's a very simple issue.
Since even Donald Trump now admits that Russia intervened in The 2016 Election the only question is "Did the intervention affect the election?"
Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and everyone else on Team Trump are adamant that the Russian hack of The DNC had "zero" effect on the election.
They have to say that. It's their only argument for legitimacy.
Because if, for example, Russia had swung an election in favor of their chosen candidate in, say, The Ukraine or Poland or even The Maldives, wouldn't the entire world be screaming about it and calling that election "illegitimate."
This is not complicated stuff.
If a foreign nation intends to and does, indeed, choose a candidate and get their candidate elected, then that election is not legitimate. Right?
In fact, America cares so very deeply about foreign nations and even foreign citizens influencing elections we have made it blatantly illegal for a Presidential candidate to accept any money from any foreign source whatsoever. We don't want them, or their money affecting our sovereignty. Russia, for example, could not legally donate even $1 to Donald Trump, a Russian corporation could not legally donate even $1 to Donald Trump and a Russian citizen could not legally donate even $1 to their chosen candidate, Donald Trump.
Those donations and those attempts to "influence" our sovereign election, under our laws, must be refused or returned. They are illegal and "illegitimate" and to keep them could subject the candidate and the donors to serious penalties, including jail time.
And if an "illegal alien" or anyone else actually "voted illegally" then, of course, those voters and those votes would be "illegitimate." This we know for sure because Donald Trump made a special point of telling us that in his November 27 tweet:
"In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,"
So let's look at the facts.
Disregarding allegations by Rolling Stone journalist Greg Palast and others that significant votes and voters were suppressed, purged and not even counted in these swing states, Donald Trump won the 2016 election by:
22,748 votes in Wisconsin
44,312 votes in Pennsylvania
9,528 votes in Michigan.
That means that out of 135,657,507 Americans voting, Donald Trump won the presidency by 76,588 votes, or 0.056 percent of those voting.
Not exactly the dictionary definition of a "landslide", but fair enough. A margin of 537 votes in Florida gave George Bush the election in 2000. In America a margin of even 1 vote constitutes a valid and legitimate win.
Let's break it down a bit further.
In Michigan, for example, out of 4,799,284 votes cast, a margin of victory of 9,528 represents 0.19 percent of the vote. To put that into context, that means that in a representative room full of 1,000 Michigan voters, 501 would have voted for Trump and 499 would have voted for Hillary Clinton. In other words, if only 2 out of 1,000 voters had liked Hillary a bit more, or Trump a bit less, the election in Michigan, and all of their 16 electoral votes, would have gone to Clinton instead.
To say that less than 2 out of every 1,000 Michiganders, and similar numbers in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, were not affected by the constant drip, drip, drip of negative Wikileaks email revelations over the course of many months of the Presidential campaign, accentuated by Donald Trump's amplification of those leaked emails, accentuated by ads and constant news stories amplifying the worst aspects of those leaked emails, constantly taking Hillary Clinton's messaging and campaign off course and throwing them, relentlessly, into "Defense" mode instead of taking their own message to the people of Michigan and America . . . is to literally call Vladimir Putin stupid.
The former head of The KGB is not stupid and the effort to get incriminating emails and information about The DNC and Hillary Clinton was not stupid, nor the strategy of publishing little bit by little bit over the course of many months.
There is no question that these emails and this strategy had a devastating impact on the impression voters across America had about Hillary Clinton.
Let's turn the tables. Had Russia, or anyone, been able to get into Donald Trump's emails (or the emails of Kellyanne Conway or Cory Lewandowski or Paul Manafort or anyone else in the Trump campaign), does anyone believe that there would be "zero" impact on the vote?
And in addition to reinforcing negative impressions about Hillary Clinton amongst Independents and those who would ultimately go and "hold their nose" to vote for Donald Trump, there is no question that these emails and this strategy had a devastating impact on the enthusiasm of Democratic voters to go out to the polls and vote for Hillary.
For months and months my own very Progressive and Bernie loving friends would fill my Facebook page with quotes from these very hacked emails along with remarks of disgust about Hillary Clinton and The DNC saying that they would "never" vote for her as a result.
Yes, this is speculative and anecdotal but let's be real.
To say that there were not 76,588 voters in those critical 3 swing states that were not affected by the number one most persistent story of the entire election is preposterous.
To say that Vladimir Putin is not a brilliant political strategist is even more preposterous.
It is counterintuitive and highly illogical to assume that a Russian hack, conducted by a former KGB officer and brilliant global strategist "intended to benefit Donald Trump" did not affect at least 76,588 out of 135,657,507, or 0.056% of the voters in Election 2016.
Given that, it is not John Lewis' job to defend his statement, it is Donald Trump's job to prove his legitimacy in the face of overwhelming logic that says that but for an illegal act of foreign influence that threatens Democracy and the very sovereignty of The United States of America itself, Donald Trump would not be taking the Oath of Office on January 20, 2017.
Richard Greene is a Political Communication Strategist and author, and a former attorney, radio show host and Fellow of The Constitutional Rights Foundation who has been a consultant to many political campaigns, including 7 Presidential campaigns in 5 countries.