President-elect’s Twitter rebuke of civil rights leader John Lewis increases boycott numberJan. 16, 2017 12:37 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—The number of Democratic lawmakers planning to skip Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony Friday is growing, with more joining in the boycott after the president-elect took to Twitter over the weekend to rebuke civil-rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.) for saying Mr. Trump wasn’t a “legitimate president.”
At least 20 lawmakers, all Democratic members of the House, have said they wouldn’t attend. Some are citing the president-elect’s past lewd comments about women and remarks about illegal immigrants, while others, such as Mr. Lewis, cite accusations of Russian-backed hacking of political committees during the 2016 election.
“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Mr. Lewis told NBC in comments released Friday. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.” Mr. Lewis told NBC he doesn’t plan to attend the inauguration.
Mr. Lewis’s comments prompted Mr. Trump to say Saturday on Twitter that the lawmaker should focus on his district. He said Mr. Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was beaten during the civil-rights era, was “all talk, talk, talk—no action or results. Sad!”
Some Democratic lawmakers cited Mr. Trump’s comments about Mr. Lewis in announcing they wouldn’t attend the inauguration.
“For me, the personal decision not to attend [the] inauguration is quite simple: Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis,” Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D., Calif.) said in a statement Saturday. He said comments on other matters by Mr. Trump were “un-American.”
Inaugural events are usually attended by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. A bipartisan committee known as the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies is responsible for the swearing-in ceremonies and a luncheon at the U.S. Capitol.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence, speaking Sunday on Fox News, said he was “disappointed” in Mr. Lewis’s comments and hoped the lawmaker would reconsider his boycott. “Donald Trump has the right to defend himself,” Mr. Pence said.
Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s choice to be White House chief of staff, described Mr. Lewis’s allegation about Russian influence in the election as “insanity” and “wrong.”
He pointed to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s recent statement that there was no information to suggest Russian hackers changed vote tallies or interfered with voting systems in the presidential election.
“I think it’s incredibly disappointing, and I think it’s irresponsible for people like [Mr. Lewis] to question the legitimacy of the next United States president,’’ Mr. Priebus told ABC. “I think putting the United States down across the world is not something a responsible person does.”
Denis McDonough, chief of staff to President Barack Obama, defended Mr. Lewis but said he disagreed that Mr. Trump isn’t “legitimate.” He noted that Mr. Obama said he believes Mr. Trump is “the freely elected president.”
Still, Mr. McDonough said on CNN, intelligence shows the Russians “did intervene, and they did intervene with the purpose of helping one candidate and hurting the other. So, these are by no means trivial concerns.”
The Democratic Party leadership isn’t taking part in the boycott of Mr. Trump’s inauguration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told NPR on Friday that she would attend to mark “the peaceful transfer of power and, in this case, from one party to the next.”
In December, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) became one of the first to announce he wouldn’t attend, citing comments Mr. Trump had made about women, immigrants and people of color.
“I cannot go to [the] inauguration of a man who’s going to appoint people to the Supreme Court and turn back the clock on women and turn back the clock on immigrants and the safety and freedom that we fought for them,” Mr. Gutierrez said last month.
In addition to Messrs. Lewis, Gutierrez and Lieu, lawmakers who have said they wouldn’t attend inaugural events are Rep. Katherine Clark (D., Mass.), Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D., Calif.), Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D., Calif.), Rep. Lacy Clay (D., Mo.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.) Rep. Adam Smith, (D., Wash)., Rep. Barbara Lee (D, Calif.), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D, Ariz.), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.), Rep. José E. Serrano (D., N.Y.), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D., N.Y.), Rep. Mark Takano (D., Calif.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D., N.Y.), Rep. Judy Chu (D., Calif.), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D., N.Y.), Rep. Mark Pocan (D., Wis.), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., N.J.), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D., Ohio), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D., Calif.)
Mr. McDonough, on CNN on Sunday, suggested that Mr. Lewis and Mr. Trump work together on social policy. “My hope would be that the president-elect would reach out to somebody as consequential and somebody who is such a leader as John Lewis, who has done so many things over the course of his life, to try to work this out,” he said.