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Blake writes: "For the first time, a leading Democrat has called into question Donald Trump's legitimacy as president."

Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. (photo: H. Darr Beiser/USA TODAY)
Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. (photo: H. Darr Beiser/USA TODAY)

ALSO SEE: Donald Trump Starts MLK Weekend
by Attacking Civil Rights Hero John Lewis

John Lewis: "I Don't See This President-Elect as a Legitimate President"

By Aaron Blake, The Washington Post

14 January 17


or the first time, a leading Democrat has called into question Donald Trump's legitimacy as president.

Rep. John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia and civil-rights icon, told NBC's Chuck Todd in an interview for Sunday's "Meet the Press" that he believes Russia's alleged hacking aimed at helping Trump in the 2016 race makes Trump an illegitimate president.

Asked whether he would forge a relationship with President-elect Trump, Lewis said, "It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president."

He added: "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton." Lewis called it a "conspiracy" and added: "That's not right. That's not fair. That's not the open democratic process."

Lewis added that he won't attend Trump's inauguration, which he said is unprecedented in his 30-year congressional career.

Update: Trump hit back at Lewis on Saturday morning, saying Lewis should instead focus on his Atlanta district.

Lewis's comments come from a particularly powerful source: A black member of Congress and major civil-rights figure. While Lewis didn't cite allegations of bigotry and racism made against Trump, the whole thing can't help but hearken back to Trump's own questioning of the legitimacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama. For years, Trump raised questions about whether Obama was born in the United States and thus could serve legitimately as president. Obama eventually produced a birth certificate in 2012, but Trump only acknowledged Obama was born in the United States a few months ago.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were particularly incensed by Trump's long-running questioning of the legitimacy of the first black president, saying it amounted to bigotry and a racial dog-whistle. After Trump finally admitted Obama was born in the United States in September 2016, members of the CBC held a press conference to denounce Trump.

At the time, Lewis urged Trump to seek forgiveness.

Lewis's words are sure to reverberate in Washington. The intelligence community has said Russia did indeed attempt to assist Trump in the 2016 election. But there's no real way of knowing whether it was decisive when it comes to putting Trump over the top.

Most prominent Democrats have been reluctant to push the idea that Russia won the race for Trump and directly call into question his legitimacy, though Clinton and President Obama have suggested it made a difference -- if not the difference.

Clinton last month named Russia's hacking alongside FBI Director James Comey's late announcements about her email server investigation as the "unprecedented factors that I don’t think we can ignore" when it came to her loss.

Obama has said he thought Russia had some impact, though he couldn't be sure whether it tipped the scales. "Elections can always turn out differently,” he told NPR. “You never know which factors are going to make a difference. But I have no doubt that it had some impact, just based on the coverage.”

About the only other major political figure prior to Lewis who has outright questioned Trump's legitimacy is former Mexican president Vicente Fox, who tangled with Trump over latter's stated plan to have Mexico pay for his U.S.-Mexico border wall. your social media marketing partner


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-40 # Winston Smith II 2017-01-14 18:12
So we know that John Lewis does not like Trump. That's understandable. His use of the phrase "not legitimate" is only a metaphor. In fact, Trump was legitimately elected, given the rather screwed up laws the US has for elections.

When Obama was elected, republican met and took an oath to oppose Obama on everything he did. They would do everything to "delegitimize" Obama. They did that. The "birthergate" movement was part of it. Obama was a much less effective president and most americans suffered because of this decision republicans made.

Now it appears the Democrats are making a parallel decision. Lewis is part of the Clinton team. I think this is a tragic mistake. For all of his badness, Trump does have a few good ideas. Why not work with him on those and make them really effective. This is what Sanders is going to do. Why is the mass media, like the fake news WaPl, not giving pages to Sanders. Why even mention the non-news of Lewis' personal feellings about Trump. The mass media helped the republicans sandbag Obama, and now they will help the democrats do the same thing to Trump. The mass media loves controversy. The American people will suffer.

Lewis needs to suck it up, swallow his pride, renounce the Clintons and get to work with Trump to stop the war in Syria, support good relations with Russia, and bring jobs back home. A lot of those jobs will go to African Americans.
0 # Caliban 2017-01-16 01:49
John Lewis has seen much evil and done much good.

I am inclined to trust his judgment of Mr. Trump for now while hoping to be pleasantly surprised if Lewis proves to be wrong.
0 # Winston Smith II 2017-01-16 07:42
You can see how emotional this issue is. All I was saying was that the Democrats should behave better than the republicans who swore to destroy Obama's presidency. The welfare of the american people is at stake. Party bickering is destroying the US. Someone needs to rise above the bitter fighting. Sanders is doing it. Lewis could and should join him.
0 # ericlipps 2017-01-16 11:12
But what happens if one side "rises above the bitter fighting" while the other dives deeper into it, and drags the rest of us along?

It takes both sides to end a fight. Let's try not to do it by surrendering.
+26 # mashiguo 2017-01-14 18:45
Countries earn the governments they deserve.
Trump is the logical consequence of centuries of worshiping wealth and holding individual happiness as superior to the common welfare.

Calling Trump illegitimate is as blind-minded as saying the Titanic is unsinkable. Trump is what US has been careening towards full force speed since Reagan. Playing a game that Trump is the problem personally rather than systemically fixes nothing. The next iteration will be even worse.

For now, fight for policy.
For the future, fight for a just political system.

Forget about Russia. They are not the problem. US is the problem.
+5 # rogerhgreen 2017-01-14 22:35
Mashiguo's comment is breathtakingly correct. Every word of it. I have been blogging that for a long time people all over the world have been saying they like Americans but don't like the US government. I think that George W Bush's re-election shook that attitude a bit. But with this election the electorate has owned this kind of government, and unless they do something about it very soon they have owned our unjust political system.
0 # California Neal 2017-01-16 11:37
In my own travels, people in other countries made those comments about our government when George W. Bush was in charge, but they were generally enamored of Barack Obama. Now, people in other countries are horrified by the prospects of a Trump presidency (as so many of us are at home). Personally, I prefer Obama to Bush & Trump, but he was not as progressive or anti-war as I wanted him to be, so I'm not as big a fan as the foreigners I meet. Anyway, the feelings of foreigners about the US government are not consistently negative. They vary based upon perceptions of the American president.
+1 # Wally Jasper 2017-01-15 09:00
Thank you, Mashiguo. Very well stated. I will add, though, that Trump is an illegitimate president-elect . The vote recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which all had serious abnormalities, was stopped by partisan rules. Hence we do not know the real outcomes of those pivotal contests. This anti-democratic process alone should invalidate the results. On the other hand, the DNC used similar tactics to win the primaries for Hillary. What goes around comes around. In both cases, we the people lost out.
+2 # RLF 2017-01-16 07:28
I really hate to say it and I think it will hurt like hell but I think the only way this country gets rid of the stupidity of the midwest voting against their own interests is by the country getting really screwed by Trump(Cheeto). Danger is in how it all gets fixed! Fascism or Democracy for real...
+1 # Winston Smith II 2017-01-16 08:12
mash -- "Playing a game that Trump is the problem personally rather than systemically fixes nothing."

This is important. The system is the way it is because the democratic party has ceased to be the counter-veiling force to the republicans. The democratic party has since Clinton been quite happy to carry out the republican agenda as the junior partner. This is what "triangualtion" means. It was the brainchild of the Center for American Progress and the Democratic Leadership Council.
+15 # m... 2017-01-14 23:32
I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of Americans agree with Mr. Lewis.
We also absolutely dread, fear and despair over the fact that no one is at least willing to stop this Inauguration until the highly disconcerting, disturbing and risky suspicions surround Donald Trump are cleared one way or the other by Our National Security Apparatus-- which, as we speak, are actively investigating the soon to be Commander in Chief of the United States who will in just a matter of days, be in complete command of those investigating him.
How crazy is that??? How is this allowed???
I see a steady march to an insane moment that no one in a position of power in willing to put a halt to or at least place on 'pause' even as its apparent that the majority of Americans want it at least postponed until the investigation is concluded.
Even Mr. Trump was ranting and raging just a few months ago over how Secretary Clinton should not even have been allowed to run for President because of the far less serious 'legal suspicions' hanging over her head because it could 'compromise her'... and he also had his large zombie audiences chanting 'lock her up'...
All of this, led by him over 'suspicions' far less serious than the suspicions hanging over his head now as Inauguration Day steadily approaches.
So, I'm sure that no matter how much of a fit he were to throw over it, the Ingauguration should be postponed until these frightening 'Manchurian-esq ue' matters are cleared up.
-3 # Robbee 2017-01-15 12:24
Quoting m...:
I'm sure that no matter how much of a fit he were to throw over it, the Ingauguration should be postponed until these frightening 'Manchurian-esque' matters are cleared up.

- one monkey don't stop no show! - bessie smith
+16 # lfeuille 2017-01-14 23:43
Trump is illegitimate. But Russia has nothing to do with it. Lewis should be concentrating on the massive election fraud that flipped the election, not figments of the CIA's imagination. Millions of people, mostly minority, had their right to vote stolen or their votes just thrown away. This is the real scandal and everyone, including Lewis is ignoring it.
+7 # Wally Jasper 2017-01-15 09:09
Right on. And while we're at it, we can't ignore the election fraud and underhanded schemes of the DNC in the Democratic primaries. What goes around comes around. Bernie was the only honest, authentic public servant running in this past election.
0 # lfeuille 2017-01-15 17:02
Right on yourself.
0 # ericlipps 2017-01-16 11:16
Or to put it another way, "WAAAA! Bernie didn't win! The Democrats deserved to lose because Bernie didn't win!"
+7 # RicKelis 2017-01-15 00:29
Lewis is correct, considering the definition of illegitimate: Here's a few definitions of illegitimate from dictionary sources:.
. Being against established or accepted rules and standards: an illegitimate means of winning a debate.
. Not valid or defensible: Their reasons for missing school are illegitimate.
: not allowed according to rules or laws
: not reasonable or fair
departing from the regular:   erratic
irregular; eccentric. {All fits Trump rather well]
His illegitimacy is obvious for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. I've seen more than one of our opinion leaders say this. For example:
Paul Krugman: “So this was a tainted election. The result was illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate on the part of domestic law enforcement.”
+7 # dotlady 2017-01-15 00:36
American self-centeredne ss, arrogance in the world, deification of profit and poisonous racism are the problem.
+2 # SenorN 2017-01-15 01:18
Interference from the FBI and Russia clearly was sufficient to tip the scales for Trump. A few thousand people, a minuscule portion of the national electorate, switching their votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania would have made Clinton our president.
+2 # James38 2017-01-15 13:00
SenorN, when you add up the number of Democrats who didn't vote, and then add in the number who voted for Stein and Johnson (votes for Trump, since neither of them had a ghost of a chance of winning), Clinton would have been the winner no matter what Russia and Comey did.

If Democrats had just listened to Bernie, after Hillary won the nomination (dirty tricks and all), we wouldn't be in this mess.

Bernie told us to get out and vote Democratic. The voters didn't listen to him, and now they are blaming everone but themselves.
0 # rogerhgreen 2017-01-16 18:48
SenorN - What you say may be true, but it doesn't negate the systemic problems in our electoral system & our non-democracy.
+6 # James38 2017-01-15 02:22
Mash, I agree that calling Trump illegitimate because of presumed Russian hacking is a little thin – even if the Russian hacking is proven to be a deliberate attempt to elect Trump. Calling him illegitimate because Comey obviously interfered deliberately with the Election might make more sense.

My preference would be to say he is simply not qualified emotionally or by experience, but that is another opinion, however widely held.

There is a more basic, completely obvious and actionable reason to say the "Presidency" of Trump, his "win" in the "Electoral College" are illegitimate – it is because they are unconstitutiona l.

The utter illogic of having the “Electoral College” overturn a popular election, capriciously and by the pursuit of politically and conceptually meaningless contests for “Electoral College” votes, beggars reason.

But this silly, disrespectful exercise in “politics as a game” is controlling the selection of the Presidency of the largest nation in the world – and the “game” is based on obviously illegal distortions of the Constitution.

We have reduced our electoral process to the level of a game of chance, one in which the selection of the President is no more meaningful in terms of the rights and the opinions of the Citizens, the voters, than the roll of dice has to do with the Constitutional rights and decisions of the players in a craps game.

-1 # lfeuille 2017-01-15 17:04
"Mash, I agree that calling Trump illegitimate because of presumed Russian hacking is a little thin – even if the Russian hacking is proven to be a deliberate attempt to elect Trump. Calling him illegitimate because Comey obviously interfered deliberately with the Election might make more sense."

Neither one makes sense. It is crooked electoral system that makes him illegitimate.
+1 # m... 2017-01-15 18:06
I certainly agree that This election is VERY contestable on Constitutional Grounds with regards to the long devoled-still devolving state by state politicized-ill egitamate-pledg ing requirements subject to 'faithless' fines, etc.
+4 # James38 2017-01-15 02:24

Worse, it is a game in which the rights and opinions of the voters are taken away from them, thrown in the trash, as the President is chosen by meaningless squabbles.
This gradual process of burying the original intent of the Constitution under an accumulation of blindly accepted laws and customs has continued over a hundred years. The entire "Electoral College" process is unconstitutiona l. We need to get people to read the basic law of our Nation with care. It is easier than you might think. Try it:
Here is what the United States Constitution says about the Electors. Note that the phrase “Electoral College” does not appear in the Constitution. That name is just one of the customs and laws that have been added by accretion. The laws restricting the rights of the Electors are what do the damage. They modify the meaning of the Constitution without being Amendments. That is why the currently performed electoral process is Unconstitutiona l.
Article II
Section 1
1: The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

+3 # James38 2017-01-15 02:28

2: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
3: Clause 3, as originally written, has been superseded by Amendment XII:
XII - Election of President
The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;—The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives , open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted....

+3 # James38 2017-01-15 02:31

The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.
(The subsequent paragraphs of Amendment XII specify details of how this vote will be taken. They do not apply to our discussion of the Constitutionali ty of State laws regarding the Electors.)

“Clause 2” defines very clearly the number of Electors each State may select. The number is equal to the total number of Senators and Representatives of the State. This does NOT allow for the selection of double that number – as “slates” dedicated to each major Party. Furthermore, that selection of “slates” immediately restricts the right of the Elector to vote as he or she wishes. As a member of a “slate”, the Elector is required to vote for the candidate selected by the Party. That is unconstitutiona l for two reasons. One, the Electors are given the duty of individually selecting their candidate for President, and their candidate for Vice President.

+3 # James38 2017-01-15 02:33

Then, the Electors are given the right and duty to vote for the candidate of their choice on their own individual ballot. Also, the Electors are meant to represent the public, and that must include representing persons who are not affiliated to one of the major parties.
“The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President… ” “…they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, …and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for…”
No further definitions are given, but read carefully, the meaning is clear. All laws controlling, binding, or otherwise limiting the free choice of the Electors are unconstitutiona l. This includes having some “official” telling an Elector he or she cannot vote for anyone but the predetermined candidate of a Party.

+4 # James38 2017-01-15 02:36

The conclusion is obvious: The election of Trump by the “Electoral College” is invalid. The Electors were unaware of their rights as specified by the Constitution. They have grown up in a society that has been misled as to the basic laws governing the Nation. They are so convinced of the artificial reality that many of them became angry when persons more aware of the Constitution tried to tell them that they had the right to change their votes. They have been convinced that loyalty to a Party is paramount, and none of them has ever read the Constitution carefully – if at all.
This situation has been going on for a long time, but the particular craziness of this Election has made the issues immediate and pressing. If, as Hamilton said, the purpose of the Electors is to make sure only a qualified person becomes President, in this election we have the opposite. The Electors have been unconstitutiona lly forced to deny the Presidency to a qualified person who was elected by a large margin, and hand the Election to an unqualified person who LOST the election.

Even so, very few have realized the basic logic I have outlined above. What is indicated, clearly, is that if some constitutional lawyers get involved, and quickly bring suit in Federal Court, an injunction can be issued postponing the inauguration of Trump until the Supreme Court can reach a decision on how to proceed.

+2 # James38 2017-01-15 02:38

I think that even the present Court, with eight members, will see the Constitutional issues, and will rule that this election is invalid, since the Electors were blatantly unaware of their rights and duty as specified by the Constitution, and were following the dictates of laws that are unconstitutiona l. These laws have been gradually put in place to enhance the control and importance of the two major parties. The laws have the effect of changing the clear intent of the Constitution, and are therefore unconstitutiona l. It would be fascinating to see what course forward might be determined. Would the Popular Election stand, or a new election be called? (And what on earth would happen if the eight Justices produce a tie? The Republicans would not allow the moderate Justice nominated by Obama to be approved. I hope, in the case of a Trump Presidency, the Democrats will return the favor.)
We need to get someone to move quickly. There are only a few days left. The immediately previous instance of this problem resulted in the election of GW Bush, and gave us the Iraq war. We hopefully will not see a repeat of the same sort of confusion.
+11 # California Neal 2017-01-15 04:57
Legitimate or not, Trump is acting like he has a powerful mandate. He's acting like he has the consent of the governed to turn over the government to the billionaires, radical right, & the generals who are in league with the defense contractors.

Yet he lost the popular vote to an unpopular candidate, & few of the people who voted for him wanted a government of people out to make income inequality worse, to destroy the environment & ultimately the planet, to end the right to abortion, to destroy public education, & to be in bed with Putin after his interference in our election.

So it is up to the Democrats to fight Trump wherever he's wrong. That starts with opposing ALL of his appointments, as all of them deserve. And when he tries to put another partisan right-wing Republican on the Supreme Court, after the GOP refused to consider Obama's middle-of-the-r oad nominee, they need to fight that as hard as they can.

It's important for them to characterize Trump as unworthy of the grace period ordinarily accorded a new POTUS. They SHOULD call him a "minority President" since he only got 46% of the vote in a low-turnout election, & HRC, despite her unpopularity, got millions more votes. It's important for them to call him out on his pathological lying, thin skin, viciousness, uncontrolled tweeting & just plain childishness.

So if the honorable & venerable Congressman John Lewis wants to call Trump illegitimate, I say more power to him.
+3 # John Puma 2017-01-15 06:17
My response to John Lewis's email request for a donation to his PAC. Received after his testimony in the Sessions confirmation hearing:

"Rep. Lewis,

Up until the recent Democratic Party primaries, you had my utmost admiration.

But then, you demeaned Sen. Sanders by denying his  participation in the same revolutionary struggle as you did, the one that helped project you both to election to congress.  This refusal to recognize Sanders was truly deplorable behavior that was not qualitatively different from the neo-fascist policies we can expect from Trump.

So you didn't SEE Sanders?  You, apparently like Trump, could not be bothered to delve into actual facts to explore, if perhaps, Sanders was involved and this simply had escaped your notice.  Millions of others had no trouble confirming his claims.

For you to willing contribute to the smugly truthless DNC destruction of Sanders but to now try to profit from the predictable result, with your "too little, too late" heroics, is disgustingly reprehensible.  It is also precisely characteristic of the Democratic Party's arrogant cluelessness that has left it powerless.

You'll never get a penny from me.  If you ask again I guarantee to deliver the continued derision you richly deserve."
-3 # James38 2017-01-15 10:04
John P, your indignation is understandable, but it is not necessarily useful, or accurate.

You sound a lot like the hyper-pure group of Sanders supporters (I am a Sanders supporter) who, after Hillary won the nomination by a combination of dirty tricks and name recognition and even some deserved popularity, stated "Bernie or bust" and refused to follow Bernie's request to support Hillary.

They were unable to understand the vital importance of the famous quote from Otto von Bismarck, "Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable - the art of the next best."

When it came down to Hillary vs Trump, the choice was clear. A vote for Stein or Johnson was a vote for Trump. They had NO chance of winning. If all Democratic voters had gotten out and voted for Clinton, as Bernie constantly urged, we would not be in this mess. Clinton was the "attainable, the second best", and that would have been better than allowing Trump to take the election by capitalizing on divisions among Democrats.

As to Lewis' statements, see this article in which he clarifies what he meant:

“The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Senator Sanders participated in the civil rights movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism."

So you are one of those who "...could not be bothered ... "
0 # librarian1984 2017-01-15 10:59
John Puma is exactly right. We are not letting neoliberals rewrite the history of this election, and we are not going to forget the pols and press who betrayed progressivism -- Rep. Lewis among them.

Lewis didn't just support Clinton. He slandered Sanders.
+4 # opinionaire 2017-01-15 08:13
I agree with the truly courageous Mr. John Lewis. The Great Pumpkin really believes he has been placed as Emperor, and does not begin to understand the position or the limitations it should have, but he was placed there by a confluence of factors, including the Russian involvement, and that of Comey. The Republicans--or their handlers in the 1%--have been playing chess, while the country has been fumbling with--oh, I don't know--trying to take care of the less fortunate, which has sometimes meant taking care of our own lives.
+2 # sus453 2017-01-15 12:18
There are no words sufficient to express my utter disdain for Donald Trump and all he stands for, but the Russia thing seems to be a red herring. The wikileaks did have an effect, on me and many others, but do you blame the messenger and ignore the issues that were brought up? With all respect for Mr. Lewis, would he have said the same thing if Bernie Sanders had won?
+1 # lfeuille 2017-01-15 17:12
For Lewis and the Democrats it is a red herring meant to distract from the Democrats neoliberal problem and our dishonest electoral system. For the CIA, I'm afraid it is more than a red herring. It is an attempt to keep the Clinton foreign policy of regime change and anti-Russian hysteria alive without Clinton and to cement CIA control over even more of out lives. Unwarranted fear encourages compliance with the erosion of rights.

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