The comparison was denounced as offensive by Democrats, including Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., two of the three African-Americans in the Senate. Some Republicans said they were also uncomfortable with Trump’s choice of language.
“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.”
“Lynching is an act of terror used to uphold white supremacy,” Booker tweeted. “Try again.”
But Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the lone black Republican in the Senate, said he could understand the point Trump was trying to make.
“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.’”
In February, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would make lynching a federal crime. The so-called Justice for Victims of Lynching Act was led by Harris, Booker and Scott.
The term refers primarily to abductions and murders of African-Americans in the post-Reconstruction South as a form of vigilante justice and a way to enforce white supremacy. Some lynching victims were white.
At his weekly press briefing, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump’s use of the term “lynching” 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.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress, said he fully supports Trump’s characterization.
“This is a lynching in every sense,” Graham said.
Other Republicans, though, criticized the president’s language.
“We can all disagree on the process, and argue merits,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., wrote on Twitter. “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.”
“The President is not a victim,” Jeb Bush tweeted. “He should be the most powerful person on the planet. To equate his plight to lynching is grotesque.”
Trump made the inflammatory comparison on Twitter 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.”
“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!”
“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?”
“A ‘lynching’? You truly are deranged, @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted George Conway, a conservative lawyer and husband of Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway.
“It was just an egregious statement,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“It is beneath the dignity of the office of the president of the United States,” Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., former CBC chairman, told reporters.
“The president should not compare a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry to such a dangerous and dark chapter of American history,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
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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