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Trump Scolds Civil Rights Icon Lewis, Days Before MLK Holiday


Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on the second day of a confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jan. 11, 2017.

Days before the U.S. holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Donald Trump has attacked U.S. Representative John Lewis after the civil rights legend said he didn't consider Trump a "legitimate president" because of what he believed were Russia's attempts to help Trump win the presidency.

In a couple of tweets Saturday morning, Trump said instead of criticizing him, the Georgia lawmaker should concentrate on serving his constituents.

In an interview Friday with NBC's Meet the Press that will be televised Sunday, Lewis said, "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 added, "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected."

Lewis spokeswoman Linda Jones declined to respond to Trump's attack but said, "We, as a nation, do need to know whether a foreign government influenced our election."

Trump's tweets have provoked sharp responses from numerous Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi of California. The House minority leader tweeted Saturday that previous attempts by critics to deter the lawmaker were unsuccessful.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded recently that Russia sought to influence the presidential election in Trump's favor. The president-elect himself accepted that the Russians were responsible for hacking into Democratic computer networks. Trump has maintained, however, 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' 5th Congressional District in Georgia includes the Atlanta metropolitan area. The region has a large African-American population and is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. Crime and poverty rates are above national averages, but the area also has upscale communities and is home to one of the nation's most significant technology hubs, as well as Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines.

Lewis was one of the leading organizers of the 1963 March on Washington, at which civil rights leader King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream Speech" before more than 200,000 people.

Two years later, Lewis’ skull was fractured during “Bloody Sunday,” a peaceful civil rights protest in the southern city of Selma, Alabama, that turned violent when state police brutally assaulted the marchers.

Televised images of the assaults shocked millions of Americans and galvanized Congress to approve the Voting Rights Act, which helped African-Americans overcome legal barriers to the right to vote.

Skipping the inaugural

Lewis has joined a group of House Democrats who have decided not to attend Trump's inauguration next week.

Jared Huffman of California said on Facebook he was “heartened to be joined in my decision by the likes of Rep. John Lewis who is widely admired for his moral clarity.” Huffman described Lewis as “a civil rights icon” and “a national treasure.”

The lawmaker said Trump is “so thin-skinned and classless, and so utterly incapable of growing up. As our President, he is going to bring disgrace, chaos, controversy and conflict unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

Lewis’ decision not to attend the inauguration has also prompted other House Democrats to make the same decision.

Representative Barbara Lee, also from California, tweeted “I will NOT attend the inauguration of (Donald Trump). When you insult (John Lewis), you insult America.” Lee also tweeted “Cowardly (Donald Trump) isn’t fit to polish hero (John Lewis’) boots.”

Representative Ted Lieu from California tweeted, “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.”

By Saturday night, at least 16 House Democrats said they would not attend Trump’s inauguration.