Conyers set to skip Trump’s inauguration

Melissa Nann Burke, and Jonathan Oosting

Washington — U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the Detroit Democrat who is the dean of the House of Representatives, will skip Republican Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, his office said Monday.

Conyers’ decision follows inflammatory comments by Trump over the weekend about civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who in 1965 had his skull fractured by an Alabama state trooper’s club while participating in the historic voting rights march in Selma with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Lewis on Friday said he would not attend Trump’s swearing-in ceremony, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” in a pre-taped interview that, “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

The next day, Trump lashed out at the 16-term congressman on Twitter, calling him “All talk, talk, talk - no action or results” and saying, “Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart.”

In the wake of the Trump’s remarks at least 24 other Democrats in Congress, including Conyers, vowed not to attend Trump’s inauguration at the U.S. Capitol, according to CNN.

“I am not attending this year’s inauguration due to my concern over a number of divisive and inflammatory statements made by the president-elect,” Conyers said in a statement Monday.

“Over the course of the incoming administration, as ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, I will oppose policies that reverse the progress we have made over the last eight years and support policies that serve to protect rights and liberties of all Americans, including the areas of criminal justice and voting rights reform. I will do everything in my power to ensure that accountability is brought to bear on the administration, and that the Constitution and our nation’s laws are adhered to, as no one is above the law.”

Trump continued his Tweet storm Saturday, saying, “Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime-infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get.” Lewis’ district includes parts of downtown Atlanta and its suburbs.

That tweet prompted a reply from U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian-minded Republican from west Michigan. “Dude, just stop,” Amash tweeted at Trump on Saturday. The fourth-term congressman has criticized other Trump statements since the election.

Over the weekend, Conyers defended the 76-year-old Lewis, who, like Conyers, is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Very concerned that Trump would spend time attacking John Lewis instead of preparing to start his Presidency,” the 87-year-old Conyers tweeted. “Agree with VP Biden that it’s time for Trump to grow up. Being POTUS is a serious matter - not child's play. I stand w/ @repjohnlewis.”

In New York, Trump was scheduled Monday to meet with Martin Luther King III to discuss his father’s legacy on the federal holiday named in his honor. Trump’s incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, announced the meeting on Twitter.

No other members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, including the other four Democratic representatives and two Democratic senators, have said they intend to skip the inauguration.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in an interview that she will still attend the inauguration, although she does not agree with “what the president-elect has said in attacking a civil rights icon like John Lewis or the attacks on any other Americans that he continues to seem to want to do.”

“To me, this is about the peaceful transition of power, and as a member of Congress, regardless of who the president is, whether I voted for him or not, I attend out of respect for our democratic process,” Stabenow said at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Lansing.

“But I think what the president-elect said about John Lewis is really disgusting.”

Jonathan Kinloch, chairman of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party, applauded Conyers for sitting out Trump’s inauguration in an attempt to send “the strongest signal and message that we will not tolerate vile statements being made against someone who is so important to the history and the plight of African Americans in this country.”

“I hope it causes (Trump) to think about what he said for a moment, but I really doubt it,” Kinloch said.

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Staff writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.