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WASHINGTON - Conjuring memories of violent racially motivated murders and drawing an immediate bipartisan backlash, President Donald Trump on Tuesday described House Democrats' impeachment inquiry as a 'lynching.”
Trump made the statement in a morning tweet that began with a warning that '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.”
Then, for reasons that remain unclear, he opted to poke unhealed wounds from America's difficult - and bloody - racial history, writing: 'All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching. But we will WIN!”
While Trump often savages the Democrats' impeachment investigation, it was the first time he has used that word in a tweet, according to the independent Trump Twitter Archive website.
Data compiled by the NAACP shows there were 4,743 lynchings in the U.S. from 1882 until 1968, and 3,446 of lynching victims were black. That's 72.7% of all lynching victims during the same span.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina was on CNN minutes after Trump posted the tweet, and called it offensive. He noted that no other president who has faced an impeachment inquiry or the inevitability of one - citing Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon - ever resorted to such racially charged language in an attempt to cast himself as a victim.
Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby L. Rush echoed Clyburn's sentiment, blasting Trump in his own tweet.
'You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING? What the hell is wrong with you?” the black lawmaker wrote, addressing the president. '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.”
Rush then offered Trump some advice: 'Delete this tweet.”
George Conway, husband of senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, tagged the president in a tweet and told him, 'You truly are deranged.”
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson was one of the first notable Republicans to call out Trump, declaring on Twitter: 'It is not a lynching.”
'Let's not start dropping words that are important with real historic meaning where we water them down to nothing,” he wrote.
The president's tweet came shortly before the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, is set to testify before the House panel leading the inquiry. Taylor raised questions about a possible quid pro quo coming straight from the White House involving a military aid package to Ukraine and a presidential desire its government investigate his Democratic rivals at home.