WASHINGTON >> Democratic Rep. John Lewis says he’s doesn’t consider Donald Trump a “legitimate president,” blaming the Russians for helping the Republican win the White House.
The Georgia congressman and leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s said he will skip next week’s inauguration of Trump at the Capitol, joining several other Democrats who have decided to boycott the historic event.
“You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that will air on Sunday.
“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” Lewis said.
U.S. Intelligence agencies have said Russia meddled in the election to help Trump win. After spending weeks challenging that assessment, Trump finally accepted that the Russians were behind the election-year hacking of Democrats that roiled the White House race. However, he also emphasized that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Lewis explained his decision to stay away from the inauguration as “you cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.”
He said it will be the first inauguration he has missed in three decades, a time that includes Democrats and Republicans taking the oath of office.
The 16-term congressman testified earlier this week against Trump’s choice of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, citing the Alabama Republican’s record on ensuring minorities have the right to vote. Lewis was beaten and bloodied during the fight for civil and voting rights.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who met with Trump Friday, said he considered Lewis a friend and great man, but “the idea of constantly looking for ways to delegitimize the results of an election, no matter how unhappy you are about it, isn’t the best example we set.”
Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona said Friday on the House floor that he, too, would be staying home. He said the move is not motivated by disrespect for the office. He said he is staying home to protest what he called “disrespect” shown to Americans by the incoming administration and by the actions being taken in Congress. He said the majority of voters did not vote for Trump.
Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than Trump but lost the Electoral College vote.
“I will be at home in Arizona, meeting with seniors, the immigrant community, folks that care about the environment and climate change, health care providers,” Grijalva said.
Other Democratic lawmakers who have announced plans to skip the inauguration include Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Luis Gutierrez of Illinois. They cite an array of reasons, but have one at least one thing in common. All represent heavily Democratic districts.