Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said the Russian government’s apparent interference with the U.S. election delegitimizes Donald Trump’s victory.
The civil rights leader told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd that he believes in forgiveness and working with others, but he said it would be exceptionally hard for him to forge a relationship with President-elect Trump.
“It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” he said in a portion of the interview, published Friday.
When asked why he doesn’t recognize Trump’s claim to the Oval Office, Lewis cited what the top U.S. intelligence agencies have said: that Moscow directed a multilayered campaign against the United States to denigrate one candidate and boost the other.
“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” he told Todd.
Lewis said he does not plan to attend Trump’s inauguration. He said this would mark the first time he skipped the Inauguration Day ceremonies since he started representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in 1987. The ceremonies are normally a celebration of bipartisanship, and many Trump critics — including Bill and Hillary Clinton — plan to be there. Several other House Democrats have also said they plan to boycott the event.
“You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong; is not right,” Lewis said.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month about the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the U.S. election through cyberattacks and other efforts. U.S. agencies have not claimed that such interference played a decisive role in Trump’s win against Hillary Clinton.
Late last month, President Obama ordered retaliatory sanctions against two Russian intelligence agencies and expelled 35 Russian suspected spies from the U.S.
Throughout the campaign, WikiLeaks had published embarrassing emails from the Democratic National Committee and from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has rejected allegations that Russia was their source for the information.
“I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected,” Lewis said. “That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open democratic process.”
The complete “Meet the Press” interview is scheduled to air on Sunday morning.
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