President Donald Trump on Tuesday compared the ongoing impeachment inquiry to “a lynching,” while suggesting that Democrats are carrying out the investigation “without due process or fairness or any legal rights.”
“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching. But we will WIN!” he tweeted.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), one of the most influential Black lawmakers in Congress, rebuked Trump’s use of the word on CNN, saying, “I’m a product of the South. I know the history of that word. That is a word that we ought to be very, very careful about using.”
He added that he hopes this president is an “anomaly.”
“You know, I’ve studied presidential history quite a bit, and I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything quite like this,” he said.
Lynchings, often by hanging, were a common form of white terrorism in the South during the Jim Crow era, which stretched from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 to the 1960s. Thousands of Black Americans lost their lives to lynch mobs over this period, according to the NAACP.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a civil rights activist who founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in the 1960s, echoed Clyburn’s response while questioning the president’s mentality in using such a word.
“You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING? What the hell is wrong with you?” he 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.”
Presidential hopeful Julián Castro was also quick to bash Trump’s use of the word “lynching” on Twitter, calling it “beyond shameful” that the president had used it to describe “being held accountable for your actions.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham came to Trump’s defense, however, telling reporters “this is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American.”
“I’ve never seen a situation in my lifetime, as a lawyer, where somebody is accused of a major misconduct who cannot confront the accuser, call witnesses on their behalf and have the discussion in the light of day so the public can judge,” the South Carolina senator said of the ongoing inquiry. “If this continues in the House it’s a complete sham and I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t live very long in the Senate.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in contrast, called Trump’s language “unfortunate.”
“That was an unfortunate choice of words,” McConnell told reporters. “Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching.”
Trump’s outburst came one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a “fact sheet” that outlined how the president had “betrayed his oath of office, betrayed our national security and betrayed the integrity of our elections for his own personal political gain” in his dealings with the Ukrainian government.
Her document included mention of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he asked Zelensky to “do us a favor” by digging up dirt on his presidential opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden.
During a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Trump called Pelosi’s probe a “phony investigation” and blasted what he called a “phony emoluments clause” of the Constitution. That clause prohibits federal officeholders from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments so as not to influence the president.
Trump’s criticism of that clause follows the reversal of his decision to host next year’s G-7 summit gathering of world leaders at his private Florida golf club after he received bipartisan backlash and scrutiny.
This story has been updated with additional responses from Rep. Rush, Sen. Graham and Sen. McConnell.