Some California congressmembers boycott Trump's inauguration over Lewis feud

Vice President-elect Mike Pence and President-elect Donald Trump talk during Trump's press conference at Trump Tower in New York on January 11.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence and President-elect Donald Trump talk during Trump's press conference at Trump Tower in New York on January 11.

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President-elect Donald Trump's Twitter spat with Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis is leading more members of California's congressional delegation to join a nascent boycott of Trump's inauguration on Friday. 

As of Monday afternoon, more than 30 members of Congress - all Democrats - had confirmed they are boycotting the inauguration. At least 11 are from the California delegation. 

On Friday, Lewis said in an interview he didn't view Trump as a "legitimate president," based on intelligence reports that Russia interfered in the U.S. elections.

Trump fired back on Saturday with a series of tweets, saying Lewis "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district," which the president-elect called "crime infested." He said Lewis was "all talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!"

Some critics said Trump painted a distorted picture of Lewis' district, which includes most of Atlanta and parts of the surrounding suburbs. 

But it was the president-elect's remarks about Lewis - coming as they did on the cusp of the holiday honoring King - that stirred the most outrage.

Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders, helped Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organize the March on Washington in 1963 and was among those beaten by Alabama state troopers during the March 1965 "Bloody Sunday" march in Selma.

Trump's comments spurred Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside) to publicly announce that he is skipping the swearing-in.

"I was going to be very quiet about it and just not go, but when President-elect Donald Trump Twitter-bullied John Lewis, I couldn’t be quiet," Takano said. He tweeted Saturday that he stands with Lewis and would not attend the inauguration.

Takano also expressed concerns about Trump's criticisms of immigrants and military families and the potential conflicts of interest posed by his businesses. Takano added that he respects a peaceful transition of power, but "objectively, this is not normal, and I can't be a part of any normalization of the circumstances."

KPCC spoke with Takano and several other congressmembers at an L.A. event held to defend the Affordable Care Act.

Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) had a similar reaction to Trump's fight with Lewis.

"I could not believe he would say these things, especially on Martin Luther King weekend," Chu said. "It was an insult, and immediately I said to myself, 'I am not attending this inauguration.'"

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) said she had already decided last week not to attend Trump’s inauguration because his past comments about Mexicans, Muslims and women "insulted the community that I represent." 

But she said Trump's criticisms of Lewis strengthened her conviction.

"Once he said what he did about my colleague John Lewis, I just decided that my initial feeling about not attending was the right thing to do," said Roybal-Allard.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-LA) had sharply criticized Trump over his Lewis remarks, and after asking her constituents to weigh in on social media as to whether she should go to the swearing-in, confirmed to the Washington Post and Fusion that she will not attend. In a statement issued over the weekend, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) cited the Lewis episode as one of the reasons he will not go. 

Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) told KPCC that as of now, she is planning on going to Trump's inaugural.

But, she added, "I think I have until Friday to change my mind if I choose to."

Like a number of other Democratic members who are attending the swearing-in, Brownley said she will join a planned protest march in Washington on Saturday. She predicted large crowds at that march and at others in California, saying, "I think the statement made by that participation means a lot."

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-LA) tweeted on Sunday that she had never considered going to the inauguration. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert) told the Desert Sun that he had decided not to go before the feud between Trump and Lewis.

Northern California representatives Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, Zoe Lofgren and Mark DeSaulnier will also not attend in protest of Trump's policies and statements.