U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday compared the Democratic-led congressional impeachment inquiry against him to a lynching, a deadly instrument historically used by white supremacists to further suppress African Americans.
"All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching," Trump wrote in a Tuesday morning tweet. "But we will WIN!"
Trump's controversial remark drew immediate and sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers and at least one Republican.
"Are you comparing a constitutional process to the PREVALENT and SYSTEMATIC brutal torture of people in THIS COUNTRY that looked like me?" Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Karen Bass responded on Twitter.
You are comparing a constitutional process to the PREVALENT and SYSTEMATIC brutal torture of people in THIS COUNTRY that looked like me? https://t.co/3v4oMuPC6C— Congressmember Bass (@RepKarenBass) October 22, 2019
Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally, called the president's use of the term "pretty well accurate."
"This is a joke. This is a sham. And this is a political lynching," he said.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California expressed caution.
"That's not the language I would use," he said. "I don't agree with that language, pretty simple."
Trump's use of the term evokes an era that began when slavery was abolished after the Civil War and black Americans were brutally murdered by white mobs.
The nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative estimates that more than 4,000 African Americans were known to have been lynched in 20 U.S. states between 1877 and 1950.
Expressions of outrage over Trump's remark continued throughout the day. Democratic Representative James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, cautioned that 'lynching' "is a word that we ought to be very, very careful about using."
Trump's close ally and fellow Republican, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, said 'lynching' is not "the language I would use."
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said, "Our country has a dark, shameful, history with lynching, and to even think about making this comparison is abhorrent. It's despicable."
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential hopeful, described Trump's comment as "beyond disgraceful."
Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who also is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said "The legacy of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and suppression is alive and well in every part of this country — including the White House where the president is a white supremacist."
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, who is African-American, declared, "Trump, this is not happening to you and it's pathetic that you act like you are such a victim."
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley defended Trump, maintaining he is "not comparing what happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history. He's just not."
More testimony in Trump impeachment inquiry
Trump's tweet came shortly before a veteran U.S. diplomat appeared before legislators Tuesday in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry, which is exploring allegations that Trump held up military aid to Ukraine unless it opened an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
William Taylor, the top official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is testifying behind closed doors about a series of text messages with other officials expressing concerns about the White House's actions. Taylor wrote that it was "crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper, who has worked on Russia and Ukraine policy at the Pentagon, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday.
The Democratic-led inquiry was set off when an intelligence whistleblower expressed concern to the inspector general about Trump's July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he appeared to urge Zelenskiy to open an investigation of the former vice president, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Trump has alleged that Biden threatened to withhold loan guarantees to Ukraine unless an earlier corruption probe into a gas company that employed his son, Hunter, was stopped.
No evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden has surfaced. But reaching out to a foreign government to dig up dirt on a rival is considered to be interference in a presidential election and an impeachable offense
Trump has insisted there was no "quid pro quo" involved in his call to Zelenskiy, describing the conversation as "perfect" and accusing the Democratic-led House of a witch hunt.
That assertion was bungled last week by Mick Mulvaney, Trump's acting chief of staff. Mulvaney admitted to reporters that Trump froze $400 million in aid to Kyiv because of the president's concerns over corruption in Ukraine and suspicions it was involved in the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails in 2016.
Mulvaney defiantly said there will always be political influence over foreign policy and told people to "get over it." He later issued a statement attempting to clarify his comments.
After Trump urged Republican lawmakers to "get tougher and fight" the probe Monday, they appeared to respond by introducing a resolution censuring California Democrat Adam Schiff, who is leading the inquiry as chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
The resolution failed by a vote of 218 to 185.