Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
Democrats compared President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial to a lynching as they debated whether to impeach him in 1998.
President Donald Trump similarly compared the impeachment inquiry he’s facing to a lynching, and Democrats quickly condemned his comment as racist.
“It makes you no better than those who burn crosses. It makes you no better than those who wear hoods and white robes,” Democratic Texas Rep. Al Green said Tuesday.
In December 1998, congressional representatives debated whether or not to impeach a president for the first time since the House voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson on Feb. 24, 1868, according to The New York Times. Multiple representatives compared Clinton’s impeachment to a lynching, and several others condemned it as a Republican attempt to remove Clinton from office.
Democratic Illinois Rep. Danny K. Davis condemned the impeachment trial as “a lynching,” and former Democratic Rhode Island Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy called it “a political lynching.”
Former Democratic Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr. said that he was seeing a “Republican coup d’etat” — a phrase that Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York and Maxine Waters of California both used as well.
“Impeachment was designed to rid this nation of traitors and tyrants, not attempts to cover up an extramarital affair,” Conyers added in 1998.
Republicans want to “decapitate their Commander in Chief,” former Democratic Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton said, and former Democratic New Jersey Rep. Steven R. Rothman bemoaned the “Republican juggernaut, driven by the right-wing.”
Trump compared the Democrats’ impeachment probe to “lynching” in a Tuesday tweet, saying, “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
Democrats met the president’s comments with derision.
“How dare the president compare lynching to impeachment. How dare he do this,” Green said on the House floor Tuesday. “Does he not know the history of lynching in this country? Does he not know that thousands of African Americans were lynched? Mob violence. Does he not know this is the equivalent of murder? How dare the president compare a lawful constitutional process to mob violence and lynching.”
“You are comparing a constitutional process to the PREVALENT and SYSTEMATIC brutal torture of people in THIS COUNTRY that looked like me?” tweeted Democratic California Rep. Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Lord give me the strength to not take the bait but hold this man accountable for every single thing he says and does,” tweeted Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
“I resent it tremendously,” Democratic House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, who is black, told The Washington Post. “I think that what we see here once again is this president attempting to change the narrative by using what I consider to be real caustic terms in order to change the conversation. To compare the constitutional process to something like lynching is far beneath the office of president of the United States.”
“A lynching?!” tweeted President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for the Civil Rights Under Law Kristen Clarke. “4,743 people were lynched in the US between 1882 — 1968, incl. 3,446 African Americans. Lynchings were crimes against humanity and an ugly part of our nation’s history of racial violence and brutality.”
“Sickened to see Trump’s gross misappropriation of this term today,” she added.
Trump also told Fox News’s Sean Hannity Monday night that the Democratic impeachment inquiry is focused only on politics, explaining to Hannity examples where former President Barack Obama was involved in scandals that could have gotten Obama impeached.
“They could have impeached in Obama for the IRS scandal,” Trump told Hannity. “They could have impeached him for the guns, for whatever, when the guns went all over the place and people getting killed … fast and furious. They could have impeached him for many different things. They didn’t impeach him. Then never even thought of impeaching him.”
Democrats have yet to vote to open a formal impeachment inquiry and are holding a series of depositions with ambassadors who Democrats believe were involved in Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.