While fuming Tuesday morning about the House Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry, President Trump declared the probe a “lynching,” prompting an outcry at the inflammatory language.
“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” Trump tweeted. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!”
The comment came just hours before Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, was scheduled to testify in the inquiry behind closed doors. In text messages released earlier in October, Taylor expressed concern to another diplomat about Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine while asking the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Taylor texted that it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Trump had previously referred to the impeachment inquiry as a “hoax,” “coup” and “witch hunt.”
“Lynching” refers to the murder of thousands of newly freed African-American slaves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In February, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would make lynching a federal crime. The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, which was led by African-American Sens. Kamala Harris and Tim Scott, has yet to be voted on in the House.
“The crime of lynching succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction,” the legislation reads.
Trump’s “lynching” tweet immediately drew widespread criticism.
“Lynching is a reprehensible stain on this nation’s history, as is this President,” Harris tweeted. “We’ll never erase the pain and trauma of lynching, and to invoke that torture to whitewash your own corruption is disgraceful.”
“You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING? What the hell is wrong with you?" Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., tweeted. “Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you. Delete this tweet.”
“We can all disagree on the process, and argue merits,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., tweeted. “But never should we use terms like ‘lynching’ here. The painful scourge in our history has no comparison to politics, and @realDonaldTrump should retract this immediately. May God help us to return to a better way.”
“That is one word no president ought to apply,” said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who was on CNN when Trump’s tweet landed. “I’ve studied presidential history quite a bit, and I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything quite like this.”
Clyburn noted that the three previous presidents who have faced impeachment — Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton — never referred to the process in such a way.
He added: “This president is, hopefully, an anomaly.”
“How dare the president compare lynching to impeachment,” Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said in a speech on the House floor. “How dare he do this! Does he not know the history of lynching in this country? Does he not know that thousands of African-Americans were lynched?”
“It was just an egregious statement,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Other members of Congress, though, were not as critical.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump’s use of the term was “not the language I would use.”
“I don’t agree with that language,” McCarthy said.
But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, did.
“The connotation the president is carrying forward is a political mob seeking an outcome regardless of facts,” Cruz told reporters. “And that I think is an objectively true description of what is happening in the House right now.”
“The impeachment process is the closest thing [to] a political death-row trial, so I get his absolute rejection of the process,” Scott said, adding: “I wouldn’t use the word ‘lynching.’”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress, said he fully supports Trump’s characterization.
“This is a lynching in every sense,” Graham said.
At the White House, Hogan Gidley, the deputy press secretary, dismissed the criticism — and blamed the media.
“The president’s not comparing what’s happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history. He’s just not,” Gidley said. “What he’s explaining clearly is the way he’s been treated by the media since he announced for president.”
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