Quint Forgey, Politico, October 22, 2019
President Donald Trump on Tuesday referred to the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives as a “lynching,” deploying perhaps his most incendiary rhetoric yet to describe the Democratic-led probe into his conduct.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!”
That morning post by the president tore open a fresh cycle of outrage on Capitol Hill — infuriating African-American legislators and further inflaming tensions in a Congress already deeply divided along party lines amid the Ukraine-focused investigation.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African American in Congress, denounced Trump’s tweet Tuesday, telling CNN that the three U.S. presidents who previously faced impeachment threats would not have likened their situations to lynchings.
Several other black lawmakers expressed similar indignation at Trump’s analogy.
“You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING? What the hell is wrong with you?” tweeted Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a civil rights activist who co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. “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.”
And Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, asked incredulously: “You are comparing a constitutional process to the PREVALENT and SYSTEMATIC brutal torture of people in THIS COUNTRY that looked like me?”
Trump was also rebuked for attacking the late African-American Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) as “racist” and “a brutal bully,” and charging that his predominantly black congressional district, which includes a large part of Baltimore, was “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being” would want to live.
Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement Tuesday that Trump’s post “shows a complete disrespect for the thousands of Black people lynched — murdered — throughout our nation’s history in acts of racism and hatred,” and that he “needs a lesson on the vicious and inhumane history of lynching in America.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said there was no discussion of a resolution to condemn the president’s tweet during Democrats’ weekly closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday morning. But he warned that Trump “should not compare a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry to such a dangerous and dark chapter in American history.”
House Democratic Caucus Vice-Chair Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) became emotional when discussing Trump’s message, tearfully recalling her visit with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to a memorial and museum commemorating lynching victims in Montgomery, Alabama. “To make himself once again a victim, it is disgusting to say the least,” she said.
Many of Trump’s Democratic challengers in the 2020 White House race — including Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Tim Ryan and Elizabeth Warren — also issued statements of reproval Tuesday, as did 2016 Republican primary opponent Jeb Bush.
“We can all disagree on the process, and argue merits. But never should we use terms like ‘lynching’ here,” [Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)] tweeted. “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.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), however, offered a forceful defense of the president and deemed his controversial assessment “pretty well accurate.”
“This is a sham. This is a joke,” he told reporters of the impeachment proceedings, adding: “This is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black Republican in the Senate, said that while he “wouldn’t use the word ‘lynching,’” he understood Trump’s frustrations.
Hogan Gidley, principal deputy White House press secretary, insisted that Trump is “not comparing what’s happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history,” and touted the administration’s work on behalf of the African-American community.