Many Democrats and several Republicans have condemned Donald Trump’s comment that the investigation he’s undergoing is a lynching, but U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina thinks the description is spot-on.
The president, currently the subject of an inquiry in the House of Representatives that could lead to his impeachment, involving among other things his pressure on the government of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son, made the “lynching” comment in a tweet early Tuesday:
Lynching, frequently used by white mobs toward African-Americans from the end of the Civil War through the middle of the 20th century, involved torture and murder without any due process of law (which the impeachment procedure does provide for). While condemnation of Trump’s tweet came swiftly from many corners, it didn’t come from Graham, who used to be one of the few Republicans willing to criticize Trump.
“This is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American,” Graham told reporters at the Capitol. Graham also called the impeachment process “a sham” and a “joke.”
The deputy White House press secretary, Hogan Gidley, attempted to defend Trump’s words when confronted by reporters, saying, “The president is not comparing what’s happened to him with one of the darkest moments in American history.” But when repeatedly asked if he’d admit that lynching was not the proper word to use, Gidley kept saying Trump had been treated unfairly by the media and “had used many words” to describe that.
There have been many attempts in Congress to pass a bill making lynching a federal crime, but legislation that would do so has never made it through both chambers. This year the Senate passed such a bill, and it remains pending in the House; if it becomes law, lynching could be prosecuted under the federal hate-crimes statute. Some far-right activists have objected to the bill’s listing of characteristics that could motivate lynching, as it includes the sexual orientation and gender identity of victims.
Another time in modern U.S. politics that the term came up was during the 1991 Senate hearings on whether to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court justice. The hearings included law professor Anita Hill’s allegations that Thomas had sexually harassed her when they worked together. Thomas, a conservative African-American, called the process a “high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks.” But he was confirmed to the court.
A sample of comments denouncing Trump’s use of the term: