ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos pressed New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the newly appointed House Democratic leader, on previously denying the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election.
Some Republicans have targeted Jeffries as an “election denier” following a statement he made calling the 2016 presidential election “illegitimate” in a tweet Feb. 16, 2018. Specifically, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Jeffries a “past election denier” in a Thursday statement criticizing the latter’s new leadership role.
“The more we learn about 2016 election the more ILLEGITIMATE it becomes. America deserves to know whether we have a FAKE President in the Oval Office #RussianInterference,” Jeffries wrote in the 2018 tweet, responding to the indictment of 13 Russians in connection with former FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the now-debunked Russian collusion.
The more we learn about 2016 election the more ILLEGITIMATE it becomes. America deserves to know whether we have a FAKE President in the Oval Office #RussianInterference https://t.co/x3BHO5CPIm
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) February 16, 2018
“What’s your response?” Stephanopoulos asked Jeffries regarding McConnell’s statement on the Senate floor. Jeffries called it “unfortunate” that Republicans have chosen to criticize him rather than focus on solving issues that face the American people.
Stephanopoulos then doubled down regarding a separate remark, in which Jeffries said Trump will never be deemed legitimate.
“You did say that history will never accept Donald Trump as a legitimate president, and the Republicans are making quite a big issue out of that,” Stephanopoulos said. “What is your response?”
“Well, here’s the Republican playbook,” Jeffries said. “Facts don’t matter, hypocrisy is not a constraint to their behavior and in many cases, they believe that shamelessness is a superpower. My view of the situation has been pretty clear. I supported the certification of Donald Trump’s election. I attended his inauguration, even though there were many constituents and others across the country pushing me and others to do otherwise, and [I] found ways to work with the Trump administration, being the lead Democrat in negotiating historic criminal justice reform. That track record speaks for itself.” (RELATED: Sunny Hostin Apologizes For Calling Trump An Illegitimate President. Whoopi Isn’t Sorry)
Some prominent Democrats have historically denied or cast doubt on the results of elections, particularly in 2016 when Trump defeated former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In a September 2019 interview with CBS, Clinton blamed Russian collusion and so-called voting restrictions in Republican-led states for her loss.
She continued to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election in an October 2020 interview with The Atlantic, saying, “There was a widespread understanding that this election [in 2016] was not on the level. We still don’t know what really happened … But you don’t win by 3 million votes and have all this [sic] other shenanigans and stuff going on and not come away with an idea like, ‘Whoa, something’s not right here.’”
Former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams refused to concede in her first bid against her Republican opponent, Gov. Brian Kemp, in 2018. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre posted several tweets in the past denying the results of the 2016 presidential race and the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election.