POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

NJ Officials Deciding Whether to Attend Trump Inauguration

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

As Newark’s Paradise Baptist Church honored the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., Pastor Jethro James asked God to reach out to President-elect Donald Trump.

“That you would touch Mr. Trump and let him know that the Earth is still the Lord’s,” he said.

But the recent news cycle belongs to Trump and a civil rights icon — Georgia Congressman John Lewis — who ignited a firestorm on Friday when he questioned the validity of Trump’s presidency.

“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected.”

Lewis vowed to boycott Trump’s inauguration. The president-elect responded with a blistering tweetstorm — admonishing Lewis to “…spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to…mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

But attacking someone like Lewis — who marched for civil rights in Selma — drew instant condemnation.

“John Lewis took the licks, the dog bites. John walked, talked, sang and was on the front lines with Martin, and for anyone — anyone — I don’t care what position you hold in this world, to say that John Lewis is anything but the real thing is an unlearned person,” James said.

Trump’s defenders countered by attacking.

“Donald Trump was duly elected. He’s going to put his hand on the Bible in five days, and I think it’s incredibly disappointing, and I think it’s irresponsible for people like himself to question the legitimacy of the next United States president,” said Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff.

“We should focus on the fact that President Trump has an agenda — has an agenda — to bring this country together,” said Sen. Tim Scott.

But the bipartisan Trump pile-on continued on Twitter.

Republican Frank LoBiondo: “Civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr & John Lewis must always be respected, honored for their struggles to make our nation better.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: “Anyone who attacks @repjohnlewis loses legitimacy in my eyes, especially someone who made such a craven effort to delegitimize @BarackObama.”

Booker will attend Trump’s inauguration, but Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman will boycott it and attend a prayer service instead.

“And we will pledge to stand together against evil wherever we see it, even if it comes out of the White House,” she said.

“I was going to go and witness him take the oath of office and leave,” said Congressman Donald Payne Jr.

But Payne told the Paradise Baptist congregation he’s having second thoughts about attending Trump’s swearing-in.

“There’s a pattern here that somehow this community is illegitimate and doesn’t deserve any respect, and we’re not going to stand for it. We’re not going to stand for it. I’m still weighing whether I go or not,” he said.

It’s tough to figure how many in New Jersey’s congressional delegation might boycott the inauguration. The Congressional Black Caucus is meeting tomorrow to discuss the issue.