Donald Trump has compared the impeachment process against him to being lynched in an incendiary tweet that sparked swift outcry on Tuesday morning.
“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,” the president wrote. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching.”
He added: “But we will WIN!
Acts of lynching grew along with racial tension in the late 19th century across the United States. There were 4,473 total lynchings in the country between 1882-1968, the majority of those victims being black people, according to the NAACP.
The White House released a statement shortly after saying: “The president’s not comparing what’s happened to him to one of the country’s darkest moments.
“The president has used many words, all types of language, to talk about the way the media has treated him,” White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley reportedly said.
But Mr Trump’s use of the term still caused immediate backlash on Capitol Hill.
“Lynching is an act of terror used to uphold white supremacy,” Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat and 2020 hopeful, wrote on Twitter. “Try again.”
Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush also slammed Mr Trump, writing on Twitter: “What the hell is wrong with you?
“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,” he continued. “Delete this tweet.”
James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the house majority whip, said that – as a black man living in the south, where lynchings have been a historic issue – he was personally offended by the president’s remarks.
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
“That is one word no president ought to apply to himself,” Mr Clyburn said in an interview with CNN.
“I don’t know if we’ve seen anything quite like this,” he added. “Andrew Jackson would never describe what was happening to him this way.”
The former chairman of the Republican National Committee has posted a photograph of an actual lynching, along with some fighting words for the president after his incendiary tweet.
“It’s pathetic that you act like you’re such a victim,” he wrote, adding: “You should know better.”
Others decried Mr Trump’s statement as a “gross misappropriation” of the term.
Kristen Clarke, the president of the national Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights under Law, described lynchings in a tweet responding to Mr Trump as “crimes against humanity and an ugly part of our nation’s history of racial violence and brutality”.
Still, some Republicans appeared to support the president’s comments, including Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close ally of the president.
“Yeah, this is a lynching in every sense,” the senator told reporters.
The controversial tweet came as house investigators met with key subjects in the impeachment inquiry launched over an alleged abuse of power involving the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
Numerous diplomats have testified behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in recent days over their reported concerns about Mr Trump’s requests for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into one of his 2020 political rivals, Joe Biden.
The impeachment inquiry was launched late last month after a member of the US intelligence community filed a whistleblower complaint alleging the Trump administration had withheld military financial aid to Ukraine ahead of the president’s phone call with Mr Zelensky, in which he urged the Ukrainian president to probe the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, who worked on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm while his father served in the White House. There has been no evidence of illegal wrongdoing on either part of the Bidens.
On Tuesday morning, William Taylor was scheduled to speak with congress about text messages the retired career civil servant wrote when he ran the US embassy in Ukraine under Mr Trump, in which he wrote to other officials: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”