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Story highlights

"I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," he told NBC News

Clinton's former aides have been reluctant to use similar language

(CNN) —  

Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis says he doesn’t see President-elect Donald Trump as a “legitimate” commander in chief following Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd in a clip released Friday. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

Lewis – an ally of Martin Luther King Jr. who was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 while marching for civil rights – also said he planned to skip Trump’s inauguration next week, which he said would be the first ceremony he would not attend since coming to Washington. He was elected to Congress in 1986.

“You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong,” Lewis said.

It was an astonishing rebuke by a sitting member of Congress toward an incoming President. Trump, however, largely launched his political career by calling into question the legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s presidency by repeatedly suggesting he wasn’t born in the United States.

Trump harshly responded Saturday, calling Lewis “all talk” and “no action” and saying he should focus more on “fixing and helping” his district rather than “complaining” about the Russia’s role.

“Congressman John Lewis should 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,” Trump tweeted Saturday, which happened to fall on the weekend of the King federal holiday.

Clinton’s former aides have been reluctant to use similar language, avoiding passing judgment on whether Trump was “legitimate.” Few Democrats have gone as far as Lewis has in disputing the election’s legitimacy.

Asked on “The Lead” by CNN’s Jake Tapper if Trump was a legitimate president, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia said “absolutely.”

“We’ve got to move on,” Manchin said Friday. “We’ve got to come together as a country.”

The intelligence community has argued in an official report that the Russians, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, sought to influence the campaign and boost Trump, a conclusion that Trump has vehemently disputed.