Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Donald Trump draws ire with 'lynching' tweet

US president is the subject of an impeachment inquiry

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House. AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House. AP

President Donald Trump on Tuesday labelled the impeachment inquiry against him a "lynching", drawing swift bipartisan condemnation.

"All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the impeachment inquiry in the Democratic-led House of Representatives focusing on his request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival, Democrat Joe Biden.

Lynching refers to the murder of thousands of Americans, most of them black, between the 1880s and 1960s, as African-Americans struggled for their rights as US citizens in the aftermath of the Civil War in which Southern states fought in vain to maintain black slavery.

"The president should not compare a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry to such a dangerous and dark chapter of American history. It's irresponsible for him to do so, and I hope that he will apologise," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said, "Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching. That was an unfortunate choice of words." Mr McConnell said he viewed the House inquiry as "an unfair process" that is denying Mr Trump "procedural safeguards".

Democrats and other critics have previously accused the president of stoking racial divisions while trying to appeal to his largely white core of conservative Republican voters, noting his comment in 2017 that there were "very fine people on both sides" at a rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia in which a counter-protester was killed.

Some Republican allies agreed with Mr Trump's use of the word lynching.

"It shows a lot of things about our national media. When it's about Mr Trump, who cares about the process, as long as you get him. So, yeah, this is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, whose home state of South Carolina has a large black population, told reporters.

Mr Trump has a long and controversial history on race including decades-old allegations of discrimination in his family's real estate business. He also championed the death penalty for five black and Latino teens wrongly accused of raping a white woman in 1989 in New York's Central Park, used an expletive to describe African countries in 2018, and singled out black athletes for criticism after they failed to stand for the national anthem while protesting racial inequity.

Mr Trump's lynching comment was immediately condemned by critics as unbecoming of a president.

"For him to say something like that was disgusting, reflects his insensitivity towards the historical tragedies of this country," said Representative Barbara Lee, who said she was not surprised or shocked by Mr Trump's comments but "just very, very disappointed".

"For Trump to characterise a legal impeachment inquiry as a lynching shows a complete disrespect for the thousands of black people lynched — murdered — throughout our nation's history in acts of racism and hatred," said Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which advocates for equal opportunity and fights bigotry.

The impeachment inquiry is focused on Mr Trump's request during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he investigate a domestic political rival, former vice president Joe Biden. Mr Biden is a leading contender to become the Democratic 2020 presidential nominee to run against Mr Trump.

Mr Biden said on Twitter that Mr Trump's use of the word was "abhorrent" and "despicable."

Mr Biden, however, said in 1998 the impeachment of President Bill Clinton could be seen as a "partisan lynching". Mr Biden apologised in a tweet late on Tuesday, saying it "wasn't the right word to use and I’m sorry about that".

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley defended Trump.

"The president was clearly articulating the way he feels and the way you guys have treated him from day one," Gidley told reporters.

Updated: October 24, 2019 05:06 AM

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