President Trump roundly criticized for comparing the impeachment inquiry against him to a "lynching"

"That is one word no president ought to apply to himself," Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, says

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published October 22, 2019 10:50AM (EDT)

Donald Trump (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Salon)
Donald Trump (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Salon)

President Trump compared the House impeachment inquiry against him to a “lynching” Tuesday, as he accused Democrats in the House of Representatives of denying him “due process” and “any legal rights" whatsoever.

“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,” the president wrote on Twitter. “But we will WIN!”

However, there is no evidence that Democrats have denied the president any rights which were previously afforded to a president during an impeachment inquiry. While Trump has sought to label the inquiry against him as a “witch hunt," Tuesday was the first time the president used the term “lynching,” which is deeply connected to the dark history of racial violence in the U.S. At least 4,743 lynchings took place in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968, and the vast majority of victims were blacks according to the NAACP.

South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, condemned the president’s comments in an interview Tuesday morning with CNN.

"I really believe this man is prone to inflammatory statements, and that is one word no president ought to apply to himself. I've studied presidential history quite a bit, and I don't know if we've ever seen anything quite like this," he told John Berman on "New Day." "I am not just a politician up here. I'm a Southern politician. 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.”

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., a civil rights activist who founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, demanded that Trump “delete this tweet.”

“You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING? What the hell is wrong with you?” Rush wrote on Twitter. “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.”

And this was not the first time the president has called up such imagery. Trump previously re-tweeted a post calling the media's alleged mistreatment of his 2016 campaign a “disgusting lynching” back in September 2015.

"By comparing his current situation to lynching, Trump is engaging in both the weaponizing of race and his sense of victimhood," CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza wrote as he recalled Trump's history of invoking racially-charged rhetoric. "He is purposely dredging up some of the darkest images of our country to vent his anger and rally his supporters to his cause. It is, in a word, gross."

Democrats are investigating whether Trump violated his oath of office by withholding military aid appropriated by Congress in an attempt to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a top rival heading into the 2020 election, and his son, Hunter Biden. There is no credible evidence that either Biden is guilty of any wrongdoing in relation to Ukraine. 

Trump has accused Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of overseeing an “illegitimate” impeachment inquiry, because the House did not formally vote to authorize one.

"There's no requirement that we have a vote, and at this time, we will not have a vote," Pelosi said last week.

Trump also accused Schiff of “treason” after the congressman read what he described as a “parody” of Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a congressional hearing.

On Monday, Trump alleged that Democrats only want impeachment, because “they’re not going to beat me in the election.” But a Fox News poll released earlier this month shows Trump losing to all three national Democratic frontrunners by at least nine percentage points.

Despite Trump’s attempts to discredit the whistleblower who revealed his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, three of his own senior appointees found the whistleblower complaint “credible” and referred it to the Department of Justice for investigation. However, Attorney General William Barr's team decided not to act.

Trump has publicly called for both Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney effectively confessed to a quid pro quo last week when he admitted that military aid to Ukraine was blocked in an effort to pressure them to investigate Trump’s conspiracy theories, which also includes a disproven claim that a Ukrainian company has a Democratic National Committee server which proves Russia was innocent of election interference in 2016.

With his own administration undercutting his defense, Trump’s focus has been on attacking the Democrats leading the investigation rather than attempting to disprove the actual merits of the charges he faces. Critics slammed Trump for invoking “lynching” as a term of self-victimization, especially after his rhetoric has been linked to a rise in racist violence.

“Trump has inspired multiple acts of racist violence and his referring to impeachment as a ‘lynching’ is risible,” wrote The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer. “But worse will be his toadies adopting this inversion of past and present, with the nation’s most powerful racist as a victim of racist violence, as a talking point.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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