Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Jerrold Nadler of New York, and Don Beyer of Virginia on Monday joined a growing list of lawmakers who will not attend Trump’s swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol. The number who initially said they would skip the event has increased after Trump lashed out at Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia and civil rights hero, on Saturday for challenging his legitimacy to be the next president.
Trump struck again Tuesday morning with a tweet that noted that Lewis had claimed that Trump’s inauguration would be the first he will have missed since coming to Congress in 1987. “WRONG (or lie)!” Trump tweeted, saying Lewis had skipped George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001.
Lewis’ office on Tuesday confirmed that the civil rights icon had missed Bush’s swearing in.
“His absence at that time was also a form of dissent,” said spokeswoman Brenda Jones. “He did not believe the outcome of that election, including the controversies around the results in Florida and the unprecedented intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, reflected a free, fair and open democratic process.”
Cohen said the hope and change associated with President Barack Obama taking office eight years ago have been replaced by “fear and dread.”
“This president ‘semi-elect’ does not deserve to be president of the United States,” Cohen said in a statement. “He has not exhibited the characteristics or the values that we hold dear. That Dr. (Martin Luther) King held dear. That John Lewis holds dear. And when he questioned the integrity of my friend, colleague and civil rights icon John Lewis, that crossed the Rubicon.”
Trump and other Republicans have dismissed the boycott and complaints, saying Democrats are sore losers who need to accept the results of the election and move on. Democrats control 194 House seats.
While many Democrats were furious with the outcome of the drawn out 2000 election in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore after recounts and a Supreme Court ruling, they generally attended Bush’s inauguration as the nation’s 43rd president. The House is out of session most of this week and roll call votes are not anticipated, so other lawmakers in both parties may skip the trip.
Obama repeatedly faced questions during the 2008 campaign about the widely debunked claim that he was not a U.S. citizen and that his birth certificate was a fake. Trump, in fact, perpetuated that notion for many years before a brief statement last year that Obama was a citizen. Republicans attended Obama’s two inaugurations.
Nadler, in a statement, said he refuses “to sit idly by as he (Trump) flaunts his illicit behavior without regard for the American people’s interest. I refuse to abide any effort to undermine a free and independent press, which serves a pivotal role in any democratic system and whose rights are guaranteed by our Constitution. I refuse to applaud for a man with a history of offensive and abusive behavior to women and minorities.”
Beyer said he will not be part of the “normalizing or legitimizing” of a man whose election may be the result of “malicious foreign interference of Russian leaders,” a reference to U.S. intelligence’s assessment that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump win.
Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said in a tweet Monday night that instead of attending Friday’s ceremonies, she’ll go to religious services to “pray for all of our leaders and people.”
Lewis said last week that he would not attend Trump’s swearing-in, claiming it the first time he had skipped an inauguration since joining Congress three decades ago.
“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 aired Sunday.
“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” Lewis said.
That drew angry weekend tweets from Trump, who wrote that “rather than falsely complaining about the election results,” Lewis should focus on his congressional district.