Top Democrats have been expressing their outrage on Tuesday after President Donald Trump compared the ongoing impeachment inquiry against him to a lynching.
“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” Trump said in an early morning tweet. “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
The comparison ignited an immediate firestorm on the left side of the aisle, with Democratic leadership even demanding an apology.
“Thousands of African Americans were slaughtered during the lynching epidemic in this country for no reason other than the color of their skin,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters. “The president should not compare a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry to such a dangerous and dark chapter of American history. It’s irresponsible for him to do so and I hope that he will apologize.”
House Democrats announced in September that they would be moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. The move was initially in response to a whistleblower’s testimony accusing Trump of asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for allegedly using his former position as vice president to remove a prosecutor who was looking into his son’s business dealings.
The reports were not confirmed at the time of the announcement, and it was not until a day later that the White House released a transcript of Trump’s exchange with Zelensky. After the transcript was made public, many argued that it fails to show the direct quid-pro-quo agreement initially alleged, and the inquiry has since shifted to focus on other possible, yet unmentioned, high crimes or misdemeanors.
The president has been increasingly frustrated with the shifting impeachment investigation, which Democrats have failed to even bring to the House floor for a formal vote, leaving an actual impeachment inquiry open-ended.
“I really believe this man is prone to inflammatory statements, and that is one word no president ought to apply to himself,” House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) said in response to Trump’s tweet. “I’ve studied presidential history quite a bit, and I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything quite like this.”
“I don’t know how to characterize that from our president except as grotesque,” said Rep. Katherine Clarke (D-MA), the sixth-ranking House Democrat. Holding back tears, Clarke further urged reporters to visit the lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.
The White House, however, defended the president’s remarks, contending that Trump “is not comparing what has happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history.”
“What he’s explaining, clearly, is the way he has been treated by the media since he announced for president,” said Hogan Gidley, the White House deputy press secretary.
While lynching refers to any public and extrajudicial murder by a mob of individuals, the term harkens back to the American Reconstruction era and into the 20th century when lynchings of African Americans became relatively frequent in the southern United States.