Watch a TV version of CNN’s “Axe Files” podcast at 10 p.m. ET
Rep. John Lewis acknowledges that the country has made progress since his time as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. However, he fears that this hard-won progress could be in peril.
“We have come a distance. We made progress. But there are forces in America trying to slow us down or take us back,” Lewis told David Axelrod on a special televised edition of “The Axe Files,” airing Friday at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.
One of those forces, Lewis suggested, is the President of the United States.
“I think the person we have in Washington today is uncaring,” Lewis said, adding that he believes President Donald Trump “knows very, very little about the struggle and the history of the Civil Rights Movement.”
The Georgia Democrat is intimately familiar with that history. Lewis was known as one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders, serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and working alongside other prominent figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was nearly killed while marching for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, on “Bloody Sunday” in 1965.
Lewis indicated to Axelrod that he didn’t see Trump as fully appreciative of the “countless individuals” who “gave everything they had” in pursuit of equal rights.
“Black and white people died, they gave their lives,” Lewis said, referencing some of those murdered during the Civil Rights Movement.
Lewis and Trump have had a fraught history since before the President took office. In the weeks prior to the inauguration, Lewis said he did not consider Trump to be the “legitimate president.” Trump drew bipartisan backlash for his response to Lewis, in which he called the congressman “all talk” and “no action or results” in a tweet. Lewis was one of dozens of lawmakers to boycott Trump’s inauguration.
Lewis said that he still does not believe that Trump is the legitimate commander-in-chief.
“I truly believe to this day that this election was rigged in his favor,” he said.
Lewis maintained his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose nomination for the position Lewis vehemently opposed.
“I know his record, I know his history, he has a very long history of being on the other side and not on the right side,” Lewis told Axelrod, adding that he believes the Department of Justice “has withdrawn from the participation in the process of looking out for people.”
Lewis expressed concern at the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” which recently sent a letter requesting a variety of voter data from all 50 states.
“That is a form of intimidation. That’s a form of harassment,” Lewis told Axelrod.
“Some of the people that make up this commission have a history, a long history, of making it harder and difficult for people to participate in the democratic process,” Lewis said without specifying which people in the commission to whom he was referring. “We’ve come too far. This President should be leading us into the future, not taking us backwards.”