POLITICS
01/15/2017 12:34 pm ET

After Years Of Birther Conspiracies, Trump Aide Claims GOP Never Questioned Obama's Legitimacy

Reince Priebus wants President Barack Obama to stand up and vouch for Donald Trump's legitimacy. Really.

For years, Donald Trump was the lead promoter of the theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not the United States, and was therefore not a legitimate president. That conspiracy was based on nothing other than the fact that Obama is black. 

Now, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is questioning whether Trump was legitimately elected, based on intelligence that the Russian government interfered in the presidential election to help him beat Hillary Clinton. 

The fact that this civil rights hero has had the temerity to question Trump has been too much for the president-elect and his allies. They’re not only calling on Lewis to be silent but now also demanding that Obama himself vouch for Trump’s legitimacy. 

“I think President Obama should step up,” Trump’s incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a great relationship with the White House. ... I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on the Republican side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democratic side, but it’s time to come together.”

“You didn’t have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008,” Priebus added.

Trump’s theory, of course, is that Obama wasn’t even constitutionally allowed to be president because he wasn’t born in the United States. 

Priebus also argued that Trump disavowed the birther conspiracies and did finally admit that Obama was born in Hawaii. But Trump didn’t do so until this past September, near the end of the presidential campaign ― after years of insisting the opposite.

“I think it’s incredibly disappointing and I think it’s irresponsible for people like himself to question the legitimacy of the next United States president,” Priebus added of Lewis. “I think putting the United States down across the world is not something that a responsible person does.”

Lewis made his comments about Trump last week, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he didn’t believe Trump was legitimately elected because “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

He also said he will skip the inauguration, the first time he will do so since he has been in Congress.

Trump has hit back hard against Lewis, tweeting that the congressman is “[a]ll talk...no action or results” and should “spend more time fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart.”

Trump likes to characterize black neighborhoods as ghettos and generally has a distorted, inaccurate view of what life in cities is like. Lewis’ district, for example, is actually quite nice ― economically and racially diverse and encompassing most of Atlanta. 

Lewis played a central role in the civil rights movement and put his life on the line for voting rights. He helped spearhead the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, which became known as “Bloody Sunday” when Alabama state troopers brutally attacked the peaceful protesters, including Lewis.

Black lawmakers have long said they take the birther conspiracies personally, saying there’s no coincidence that the first black president was the one to have his birthplace and legitimacy questioned.

“It’s a dog whistle to all Americans, especially African-Americans,” Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said at a Congressional Black Caucus press conference in September. “If indeed Barack Obama is not intelligent, if indeed Barack Obama is not legitimate, then you striving up the corporate ladder, or striving to achieve something ... how can you feel good about yourself as a sixth-grader if you’re an African-American.”

“He [Trump] would not have done that to a Mitt Romney,” added Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) at the same press conference. “He would not have done that to a John McCain or any other white who was running for president of the United States.”

Intelligence agencies have said they believe Russia intervened in the U.S. election to help Trump win the White House, although they have not said whether that foreign meddling changed the outcome. 

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