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President Trump compares impeachment inquiry to a "lynching"

Trump compares impeachment inquiry to "lynching"
Trump under fire after comparing impeachment inquiry to a "lynching" 02:10

President Trump frequently uses the terms "witch hunt" and "coup" to describe investigations into his campaign and administration, but the president selected a much stronger word to describe the current impeachment inquiry he's now facing. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump compared the impeachment inquiry to a "lynching," a term often associated with the mob killings of African Americans in the Jim Crow era.

"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!" Mr. Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning.

The tweet was one of many sent by the president while he apparently watched "Fox and Friends." Mr. Trump first quoted the host's comments on a New York Times poll which found the majority of voters in battleground states oppose removing Trump from office — although 50% support the inquiry. 

The hosts then started comparing the impeachment inquiry to past investigations. "I want to know about Hillary Clinton with the Dossier? I want to know if there was FISA abuse? We're still waiting for that report!" the president quoted from "Fox and Friends."

The president has often focused on what he perceives as a double standard between himself and Democrats. However, this appears to be the first time he's used the racially-charged word "lynching" — and it set off a fierce backlash.

"Thousands of African Americans were slaughtered during the lynching epidemic in this country for no reason other than the color of their skin," said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, who spoke out Tuesday against the president's tweet.

The NAACP estimates at least 3,446 black Americans were killed in lynchings between 1882 and 1968, as were about 1,297 whites, often for supporting anti-lynching or civil rights efforts. The Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which opened last year, commemorates more than 4,300 victims of "racial terror lynching." 

"The president should not compare a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry to such a dangerous and dark chapter of American history is responsible for him to do so. And I hope that he will apologize," Jeffries continued. 

Congressman Jim Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, told reporters he resents the lynching comment "tremendously." 

"I think that what we see here once again is this president attempting to change the narrative, using what I consider to be real caustic terms in order to change the conversation," said Clyburn, of South Carolina. "To compare the constitutional process to something like lynching is far beneath the office of president of the United States."

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley tweeted that she hadn't even had her morning coffee yet and "the bigoted man who called for the execution of the exonerated 5, is tossing the word 'lynching' around. Lord give me the strength to not take the bait but hold this man accountable for every single thing he says and does."

Pressley was referring to the group of teens known as the Central Park Five, who in 1989 were wrongly convicted of rape and later exonerated. The case divided New York City along racial lines and Mr. Trump, then a local real estate developer, took out full-page newspaper ads calling for a return to the death penalty. More than a decade after the exoneration of all five men, Trump continued to defend the original investigation, which many believed was a case of racial injustice. 

Democrats weren't the only ones objecting to the president's remark.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the president's choice of words "unfortunate."

"Given the history in our country I would not compare this to a lynching," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. 

Senator Tim Scott — the only black Republican in the Senate — said, "I wouldn't use the word lynching," but he added, "I would love for the House to take up unanimously passed lynching legislation in the Senate and do something with it as opposed to complaining simply about the president's use of it."

Scott, from South Carolina, went on to say that he understood the comparison because "the impeachment process is the closest thing of a political death row trial, so I get his absolute rejection of the process."

At least one high-profile Republican did defend the president's remark. Senator Lindsey Graham doubled down on the president's use of the word lynching, calling it "accurate."

"This is a lynching and in every sense this is un-American," Graham said, referring to the impeachment inquiry.

While lynching has been a troubling part of America's history for more than a century, it is not yet classified as a federal hate crime. The legislation Scott referred to would change that. The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Tim Scott and over 40 others.  

"This crucial legislation would make lynching a hate crime, therefore eligible for the additional federal tools and resources used to investigate and prosecute hate crimes," according to NAACP. It was unanimously passed in the Senate but has yet to be brought up for a vote in the House. 

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