The leading candidate to replace Nancy Pelosi as the next House Democratic leader is a 2016 election denier who openly argued that former President Donald Trump was an "illegitimate" president.
House Democratic Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries announced Friday he's running to lead Democrats in the next Congress. He appears to have a clear path to the job since no other challenger has emerged so far, and he has won praise from several Democrats.
But Jeffries was one of many Democrats who questioned whether Trump legitimately won the 2016 election due to alleged Russian interference and collusion. He often made statements about Trump's 2016 victory that are similar to claims Trump made about the 2020 race being stolen.
"The more we learn about 2016 the more ILLEGITIMATE it becomes," Jeffries tweeted from his congressional account in 2018. "America deserves to know whether we have a FAKE President in the Oval Office."
"History will never accept you as a legitimate president," Jeffries tweeted from his personal account about Trump in 2020.
Jeffries also claimed Trump cheated in the 2016 election, alleging Trump may be "a Russian asset."
"LIE (more than any administration in the history of the Republic.) CHEAT (2016 election/Russian Interference). STEAL (one or two Supreme Court seats). When will Republicans put country ahead of party?" Jeffries tweeted.
"Is Donald Trump?… A. a legitimate President… B. a Russian Asset… C. an organized crime boss… D. a useful idiot," Jeffries tweeted in 2019. "The American people deserve to know."
Democrats have criticized Trump for nearly two years now for his rejection of the 2020 election results. But when asked this week if Jeffries still believes Russia stole the 2016 election for Trump, Jeffries' office indicated that is still the case and told Fox News Digital his "observations about the twice-impeached Florida man speak for themselves."
Jeffries' candidacy is predictably splitting Republicans and Democrats in the House.
"He's even further to the left of Nancy Pelosi," Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said Friday on "Fox & Friends." "And that's the problem with the Democrat Party."
"'I'm a huge fan of Hakeem. I think he's extremely intelligent, and he's a good person to bring consensus among the caucus. And I think he'll be an outstanding leader," Progressive Caucus member Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., told Fox News Digital.
Fox News' Jason Stine contributed to this report.