President Donald Trump has called the House impeachment inquiry a "coup," a "witch hunt" and a "fraud," but he introduced a new phrase to describe the process on Tuesday: "a lynching."
"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," Trump tweeted. "All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!"
The president's use of "lynching," which elicits a time when black Americans were murdered by extrajudicial white mobs, was the subject of immediate blowback.
"You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING?" Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., tweeted. "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. Delete this tweet."
"It is not a lynching," conservative pundit Erick Erickson tweeted. "Let's not start dropping words that are important with real historic meaning where we water them down to nothing."
According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, more than 4,700 lynchings took place in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968. Of those who were lynched, more than 3,400 were black, though not all lynchings that took place were recorded, the NAACP noted. Many of the whites who were lynched, the organization adds, were killed for helping black Americans or being against lynching.
"It's beyond shameful to use the word 'lynching' to describe being held accountable for your actions," former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, a Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted.
Speaking on CNN, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said the president's early morning tweet was "another indication" of how "loose" he is "with his words." Clyburn, a top-ranking Democrat, said the president's comparison of impeachment to lynching offended his sense of history.
"Very much so," Clyburn said. "I am not just a politician. 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."
Trump's tweet came just before acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor is set to provide the House with a closed-door deposition. Taylor, a key figure in the administration's Ukraine dealings, which are at the center of the House inquiry, texted U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland last month that it was "crazy" to hold up the country's military aid until they investigated political opponents of the president.
Sondland responded hours later that the president was clear about there being no quid pro quo, a message he later told the House was passed along to him by the president after Sondland received Taylor's message.
Speaking with reporters in a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Trump lamented the House was interviewing ambassadors he "never heard of."
The House launched its impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower filed a complaint about Trump's conduct toward Ukraine. The whistleblower, whose identity is not yet known, said in the complaint that Trump sought electoral assistancefrom Ukraine. The complaint was based on information passed along to the whistleblower by administration officials who were concerned, the whistleblower wrote.
Although Trump has claimed the whistleblower's account is "false," a detailed description of Trump's July 25 callwith Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which was released by the White House, aligns with the complaint. In that call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to probe a debunked conspiracy theory about Democrats and the 2016 presidential election and also investigate the Biden family, particularly former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter, who had business dealings in Ukraine.
Trump's remark on Tuesday was the first time he had used the word "lynching" in a tweet, although in 2015 he promoted a comment from a Twitter user who thanked conservative personality Mark Levin for "maintaining" his "integrity during this disgusting lynching of" Trump, who was then a Republican presidential candidate.
"Thanks Mark!" Trump added.