Newly elected House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries defended past remarks calling Donald Trump’s 2016 election “illegitimate” against Republican criticism, noting that he voted to certify his presidency.
“I will never hesitate in criticizing the former president,” Jeffries said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I think I’m in good company there across the world.”
Jeffries said Republicans “are going to have to work out their issues” with Trump after his comment Saturday on his Truth Social social-media site that his loss in 2020 should be overturned and that “rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” should be terminated. Jeffries called it “a strange statement.”
“Suspending the Constitution is an extraordinary step, but we’re used to extraordinary statements being made by the former president,” Jeffries said of Trump, who is running for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.
For their part, Republicans have criticized Jeffries after Democrats selected him to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing tweets in which he said that Russian interference made the 2016 presidential election “illegitimate” and questioned whether Trump was a “fake president.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Jeffries an “election denier,” a term typically used to describe Trump and allies who refuse to accept his loss in 2020.
Jeffries said that he voted to certify Trump’s 2016 win, attended his inauguration and worked with his administration on issues like a treaty with Mexico and criminal justice reform.
“That track record speaks for itself,” he said.
The White House harshly criticized Trump’s latest claim of election fraud, calling the US constitution a “sacrosanct document.”
“Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement. “You cannot only love America when you win.”
Former Trump adviser John Bolton, who has since become one of his harshest critics, said on Twitter that “all real conservatives” should oppose his 2024 campaign, citing that statement.
“No American conservative can agree with Donald Trump’s call to suspend the Constitution because of the results of the 2020 election,” he wrote.
Republican Representative David Joyce, who chairs the moderate Republican Governance Group, said on “This Week” that he wasn’t going to respond to Trump’s latest statement, even if it was a call for suspending the US constitution.
“He says a lot of things,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s ever going to happen.”