THE FIX: Had you debated skipping the inauguration, or was this a sudden decision?
YARMUTH: I was debating whether to go or not, and I had conversations with Leader [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] and basically she said, “Use your own judgment.” I was still ambivalent when the weekend started, and then when Donald Trump tweeted about John Lewis, I started thinking that because attendance was becoming a public issue, it was an opportunity for me to make this statement that I'm not going because the behavior of Donald Trump has been anything but presidential.
POCAN: I fully intended to go no matter who got elected. I respect the office of the president. But last week, [there was] the press conference where he absolutely refused to separate his business interests while being president. And on Thursday, I read the classified briefing on Russia's interference with the election. And over the weekend I saw the comments on John Lewis — to attack someone who has done much more in one week of their life than Donald Trump and his Twitter account have done in their entirety was just too much. I want Donald Trump to respect the office of president like I do, and I just don't feel like he does.
Can you share more about what you know about Russian interference in the election that helped you decide not to attend the inauguration?
POCAN: I think a lot more will come out through investigating around this. Let me just say this: I understand what John Lewis was trying to say, which was, he was questioning the legitimacy of the election based on this outside interference at unprecedented level. I'm sure more of this will come out, and there should be extremely great reservations about what happened.
Sounds like your main issue is he's not presidential.
YARMUTH: A lot of people were saying “Now that he's been elected, he's going to change his stripes.” He hasn't, he's pretty much doubled down on them. When you're getting up in the middle of the night and tweeting about “Saturday Night Live” and Meryl Streep and you're insulting the head of the CIA and people like John Lewis, you're diminishing the office, you're acting like a child, and if you're going to be president of the United States, you have to maintain the dignity of that office. And he shows no interest in doing that.
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2017
You say you don't want to disrespect the president, but you could argue that skipping the inauguration of a president that won fair and square is a form of disrespect.
YARMUTH: None of this would have come up if I hadn't seen an opportunity because of the fact that attendance had become an issue, an opportunity to say that, in my opinion, he has not been acting presidential and has basically denigrated the office, and I don't want to sit there and celebrate his ascension to it. I still believe he was elected legitimately. I don't question that at all. But as John Lewis said, when you see something you believe is wrong, you stand up and speak up, and that's what I'm doing.
POCAN: Honestly, I don't know how to try to make someone realize that his Twitter account, at some point, is going to get us in trouble. And I figured this was my best option to protest that. At some point, some world leader is going to get offended by something he gets out there at 4:30 in the morning, and you're not going to be able to reel it back in.
Do you agree or disagree with Congressman Lewis that the president is not “legitimate”?
YARMUTH: No, I don't agree with that. I think he is legally elected president, and you can say there are a lot of things that shouldn't have happened in a fair world that could reverse the results of the election, but I think you could say that about almost any election on any level. I'm not happy with it, but I wouldn't claim he's not legitimate.
POCAN: He won the electoral college vote, therefore he is the legitimately elected president. However, I would argue that the election process itself may lack legitimacy, and that's part of the concern that many of us have.
THE FIX: If nearly 50 Democratic lawmakers can't bring themselves to attend the new president's inauguration, what can they work with him on? Should Americans get ready for at least four years of more partisanship?
YARMUTH: No, because I don't think that Donald Trump is a partisan, and I don't think that he is an ideologue, so I think there's going to be an interesting dynamic. The reality is there are going to be a lot of things Donald Trump is going to want to do he would not get 218 votes for [in the House of Representatives] and that Democrats are going to become important to some of his agenda items, and that's an opportunity for productive cooperation.
POCAN: I think you can still disagree with someone and work with them. If he's truly sincere about his concern around pharmaceutical companies and price gouging, I'm looking forward to working with him. If he really wants to invest in roads and bridges and schools and broadband, I'm going to try to work with him. If he tries to privatize public education and take away tax dollars for that, I'm going to fight him tooth and nail. I just think that's part of your job as an elected official. I just don't know how else to get his attention to realize that his Twitter account is potentially a really damaging thing.
What will you be doing during the inauguration?
YARMUTH: I'm going to watch. I certainly want to see what he has to say, whether he indicates seriousness of purpose and also whether he gives us any hints about where he plans to go legislatively — I think that's something all of us in Congress are looking for. I'll probably be drinking bourbon at the time — or shortly after.
POCAN: We are going to be at a food shelter. I might tape it. I haven't really thought about it.