WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump injected racial overtones into the House impeachment inquiry Tuesday by comparing the Democratic-led investigation into his handling of U.S. policy toward Ukraine to a “lynching.” The highest-ranking African American in Congress warned Trump about making the comparison.
Lynchings, or hangings, historically were mostly used by whites against black men and mostly in the South beginning in the late 19th century amid rising racial tensions in the U.S. By comparing the impeachment process to a lynching, Trump is also likening Democrats to a lynch mob.
Under pressure over impeachment, blowback over his Syria policy and other issues, the Republican president tweeted Tuesday: “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.
“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”
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. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2019
House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., criticized Trump’s word choices.
“That is one word no president ought to apply to himself,” Clyburn said on CNN after the president’s tweet was read to him. “That is a word that we ought to be very, very careful about using.”
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., called on Trump to delete the tweet.
“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,” wrote Rush, who is also black.
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., tweeted to Trump: “No sir! No, @realDonaldTrump: this is NOT a lynching, and shame on you for invoking such a horrific act that was used as a weapon to terrorize and murder African Americans.”
Republican legislators largely tried to put the focus on what they said was the unfair way in which Democrats are conducting the impeachment inquiry
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Trump’s description was “pretty well accurate.” He called the impeachment effort a “sham” and a “joke” because the president does not know the identity of his accuser, and the process is playing out in private.
“This is a lynching in every sense,” said Graham, who is close to Trump.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only black Republican, agreed with Trump’s sentiment but not his word choice.
“There’s no question that the impeachment process is the closest thing (to) a political death row trial, so I get his absolute rejection of the process,” Scott said. He added, “I wouldn’t use the word lynching.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is also close to Trump, also said “lynching” isn’t “the language that I would use.”
Defending Trump, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president was trying to point out the way he has been “attacked” by the news media since before he took office. Trump’s tweet mentions Republicans and Democrats only, not the news media.
“The president’s not comparing what’s happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history,” Gidley said.
Trump has a habit of trying to portray himself as the victim.
His tweet came a day after he lashed at critics of his decision — since rescinded — to schedule a major international economic summit for 2020 at one of his Florida golf properties. He lamented at one point during remarks Monday about “you people with this phony emoluments clause.”
The emoluments clause is in the Constitution and bans presidents from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments.
A whistleblower’s complaint that Trump was attempting to use his office for personal political gain during a July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s president led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open the impeachment inquiry.
Trump insists he did nothing wrong. He characterizes the conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “perfect” and argues that sore-loser Democrats are still trying to overturn the 2016 election that put him in the White House.
Whites used lynchings as a way to resolve anger toward blacks across the South, where people were blaming their financial problems on newly freed slaves that lived around them, according to the NAACP.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, a U.S. appeals court in Atlanta was to consider whether federal judges can order grand jury records unsealed in the mob lynching of two black couples. The young black sharecroppers were stopped along a rural road in 1946 by a white mob that dragged them out and shot them multiple times east of Atlanta. More than 100 people reportedly testified before a grand jury, but no one was ever indicted in the deaths of Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey.