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John Lewis might skip Donald Trump's first Capitol Hill speech

WASHINGTON -- Six weeks after engaging in a personal and very public tiff with President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, declined to say whether he'll attend Trump's address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday.

“I’m just not speaking about it," the civil rights icon said just outside the House chamber on Monday evening, steps from where Trump will address Washington's power players.  “I don’t know what I’m going to do right at this moment."

Lewis became the face of the Democrats' opposition to Trump after he said last month that he didn't see the then-president elect as "legitimate."



The 16-term lawmaker's remarks quickly drew a rebuke from Trump, who tweeted that Lewis was "all talk, talk, talk – no action" and that he "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart."

Trump's comments drew the ire of Democrats and many Atlantans as many Georgia Republicans struggled to defend him.

While dozens of House Democrats, including Lewis, boycotted Trump's inauguration, most have indicated they plan to attend tomorrow's speech and get their message across another way.

Some announced plans to invite as their guests Hispanic immigrants, gun violence victims and others they say have been negatively impacted by Trump's policies. The ACLU said Lithonia Democrat Hank Johnson would be bringing Asma Elhuni, a student and board member of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in order to “demonstrate the importance of inclusion and equality.”

Lewis said he would need to "have an executive session with myself" before deciding on whether he should personally attend Trump's speech.

Spokespeople for Georgia's other two Democrats, Sanford Bishop of Albany and David Scott of Atlanta, said the lawmakers plan to bring their wives as their plus-ones.

Some Republicans also planned to get political with their "dates."

Gainesville Republican Doug Collins announced that he would be attending with Brittany Ivey, a Toccoa mother whose health care premiums skyrocketed under Obamacare.

“There’s no better occasion than the president’s annual address to Congress to bring attention to the victims of the Affordable Care Act and the urgency of repealing Obamacare,” Collins said in a statement.

Aside from Lewis, 14 out of Georgia's 16 members of Congress said they plan to attend Trump's speech. The only lawmaker to officially decline was U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who will be watching from home as he recovers from a recent back surgery.

Read more about John Lewis and Donald Trump: 

John Lewis: Donald Trump not ‘a legitimate president’

John Lewis on Donald Trump: ‘Almost impossible for me to work with him’

Trump to John Lewis: Fix your ‘horrible’ Atlanta district

Donald Trump condemned for attacks on John Lewis and his Atlanta district

Georgia Republicans struggle to defend Trump’s attack on Lewis

Atlantans say Trump is wrong about their city and John Lewis

It continues: Donald Trump dings John Lewis for skipping Bush inauguration

Which Georgia Democrats are boycotting Donald Trump’s inauguration?

John Lewis to headline Saturday’s Trump protest march in Atlanta

Is John Lewis’ 5th district ‘crime-infested,’ as Donald Trump says?

Trump trashes John Lewis’ district: Things to know about 5th Congressional District

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.