U.S. Rep. John Lewis appeared on Sunday morning’s “Meet the Press” on NBC.
Lewis' interview has continued a war of words between the civil rights icon and Donald Trump, a conflict that escalated on Friday when Lewis, in his interview, said Trump is not a legitimate president. Trump responded on Twitter on Saturday, when the president-elect tweeted that Lewis' 5th congressional district in Atlanta was "crime-ridden" and "in horrible shape."
Here is a transcript of his interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd:
CHUCK TODD: Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?
JOHN LEWIS: No. I believe forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It's going to be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.
TODD: You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?
LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
Why Lewis does not think Trump is a legitimate president-elect:
"I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others that helped him get elected. That's not right. That's not fair. That's not the open, democratic process."
What do you say to young people who look up to you?
"I continue to say it to people today and I'm going to continue to say it during the next few days as we celebrate and commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. That when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something. You cannot afford to be quiet or to be silent. We have to continue to work, continue to speak up and speak out.”
TODD: If he's not legitimate though, how do you accept working with him under any circumstance?
LEWIS: Well, it's going to be very hard and very difficult, almost impossible for me to work with him.
TODD: If Donald Trump came to you and said, 'You know, I want forgiveness here. I want your trust,” would you take him to Selma?
LEWIS: Well, by going to Selma like President Bush, President Clinton, President Obama, maybe he would learn something. Maybe he would get religion.
On one hand we made a lot of progress. We've come a distance but we're not there yet. And I think when the president spoke a few days ago he said we're not a post-racist society. And some people who said that and there's some people who believe that when he was first elected.
But we're not there yet. The scars and stings of racism are still deeply embedded in American society. We cannot sweep it under some rug or in some dark corner. We have to continue to do all we can to move us close to what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called our beloved community.
But we can redeem the soul of America and lay down the burden of hate, separation and division.
I think we should have a special commission to get to the bottom of what happened, what role did the Russians play in determining the leader of our country.
When you have someone being elected who said the president or leader of Russia is stronger or better than our own president …
TODD: That's just something you can't forgive?
LEWIS: I will never forget it.
Dr. King would say to all of us to never give up. Never become bitter. Be hopeful. Be optimistic and keep pushing.