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NORMANDY, FRANCE – Today, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries appeared on CNN This Morning with Kasie Hunt live from Normandy ahead of the 80th anniversary commemoration of D-Day.

KASIE HUNT: And joining me now from Normandy, France, is Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has traveled there to mark this occasion. Mr. Jeffries– Leader Jeffries, thank you very much for being with us this morning. Let’s just start with your reflections, especially as you see what is likely to be for these men, the last major commemoration of this day.

LEADER JEFFRIES: Well, it’s a serious, it’s a solemn, it’s a very sober day, and it’s been an honor to have the opportunity to shake hands with and talk with some of the folks who– the heroic folks who participated in D-Day or were part of the struggle during World War II, which was really a struggle between freedom and fascism. And it was a great cost and great sacrifice and many lives were lost. And we honor and uplift them today and always and recommit to freedom and democracy and the principles that they fought so valiantly for, to make sure that we can keep them alive.

KASIE HUNT: Mr. Leader, this commemoration comes as an uncertain future looms over the West. To be quite frank about it, there is a ground war raging now in Eastern Europe, and there is a presidential campaign that very may well reelect a man who has questioned NATO, which is really the security foundation that these men at D-Day fought and died to build, to make it possible for the peace that followed the wake of World War II. What does this anniversary mean in those contexts?

LEADER JEFFRIES: Well, the resolve that was shown by the young men 80 years ago today, and they were young men, 18, 19, 20, putting it all on the line for liberation and for freedom and for democracy on a continent that they had never been on before. Fighting for the values. I think we can draw strength from the incredible resilience that they showed, and also show the reverence for the sacrifice that they made by making sure that we all recommit to making sure that we can maintain this rules-based society across the world. That certainly is under threat right now because of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

KASIE HUNT: Mr. Leader, the president– the former president of the United States, after he was convicted in his trial in New York, referred to what he called American fascism in that context. I’m interested to hear your reflections on his use of that term as we mark what was a day to defeat fascism during the Second World War.

LEADER JEFFRIES: Well, America is a democracy. It’s a government of the people, by the people and for the people. And we have to fight to make sure that we can keep that going moving forward over the next couple of months and beyond. The fight against fascism was waged by our brave American heroes, joined by their partners from Great Britain and Canada 80 years ago today, which began the liberation fight at the highest level against Nazi Germany, Hitler and fascism. And certainly I think nobody ever wants to go back to where we were on those very, very dark days in world history. And again, I think we can draw strength from that resilience, from their struggle, certainly reverence for their sacrifice and make sure we can keep this great American democracy thing going always and forever.

KASIE HUNT: Why do you think there seems to be an interest or appeal among some Americans who support Donald Trump, certainly for Donald Trump himself, it’s very clear he has a specific affinity for strongmen, for dictators. Why is it that that’s appealing to some Americans right now?

LEADER JEFFRIES: Well, I’m sure that that is going to be a question that many historians will explore when they look back upon this particular period of time. I do think that we’ve seen over the last several years an important recommitment to the principles of democracy, to an understanding that democracy is not a self-executing proposition. It doesn’t simply run on autopilot. It takes all of us to lean in, to show up, to speak up, to stand up for what we know is right for classic American values, and that shouldn’t be a partisan thing, not a Democratic thing or an independent thing or Republican thing. It’s an American thing, democracy in the United States. And I’m confident that, you know, based on what we’ve seen over the last 248 years now, that the American people will pull together in ways that are consistent with the founding principles of this great country.

KASIE HUNT: Congressman, Mr. Leader, before I let you go, I do want to ask you about a controversy brewing here at home that actually also touches on history and the collective progress that we have or haven’t made. And that’s Congressman Byron Donalds, who held an event, as you know, in Philadelphia and he said, “you see, during Jim Crow, the Black family was together during Jim Crow, more Black people were not just conservatives, but more Black people voted conservatively.” You obviously responded to him. He responded to you last night right here on CNN and he pushed back. He said “nobody ever made nostalgia that wasn’t the point this is where the media and yes, Hakeem Jeffries, and a lot of other people are taking it.” I’m interested to know your response to Mr. Donalds.

LEADER JEFFRIES: Well, I had an opportunity to speak to that situation on the House floor yesterday, and so I’ll reserve comment at this moment, simply because I think it’s most appropriate that on this day, we give respect and reverence and, of course, remembrance, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for America, for the free world, for democracy and for the liberation of Europe.

KASIE HUNT: And for voting rights for everyone. Congressman Jeffries, I really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much, sir.


Full interview can be watched here.