House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday did not endorse the President’s choice of words, saying, “That’s not the language I would use” and “I don’t agree with that language, it’s pretty simple.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was also critical of the President’s comment at a news conference later in the day.
“Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching. That was an unfortunate choice of words,” said McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky.
McConnell went on to say that the process Democrats are using in the House to conduct the inquiry is “unfair.”
In his comments at an earlier news conference, McCarthy did not go so far as to explicitly condemn the President’s statement and similarly went on to criticize the impeachment investigation itself.
“It’s very clear that what the Democrats are doing here does not have due process, is not fair in the process, is not something that this House has done ever in the past,” McCarthy said when asked to respond to the comment.
The President on Tuesday called House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry a “lynching,” employing a term associated with the extrajudicial killings of African-Americans while calling on Republicans to aid his political defense.
“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!” the President tweeted.
Trump has repeatedly railed against the probe, calling it a “witch hunt” and a “fraud,” but Tuesday marks his first use of the term “lynching,” which is associated with a period of horrific racial violence in the United States, in regard to the inquiry. Following Emancipation and the Civil War, killings, often carried out in public settings, known as lynchings, terrorized newly freed black Americans. Thousands of citizens were killed this way.
Republican Sen. Susain Collins of Maine, who is up for reelection in 2020, said that Trump “never should have made that comparison.”
“‘Lynching’ brings back images of a terrible time in our nation’s history, and the President never should have made that comparison,” Collins tweeted.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who is also running for reelection, refused to defend the President’s use of the word “lynching” to describe the impeachment inquiry on, but did not outright condemn the language either.
“I would not have chosen those same words,” Cornyn said.
Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, the only African-American Republican serving in the House of Representatives, called the President’s remark “crazy.”
“It’s a crazy statement. It shouldn’t have been said and it shows a level of insensitivity to a horriffic period in our history,” Hurd told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”
Hurd added, “It contributes to this notion that Republicans are not understanding of the plight of minorities. So I wouldn’t have done it. I would advise him to stay away from that and again this level of insensitivity to a dark period is not acceptable.”
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois was also critical, calling on the President to “retract” his remarks “immediately.”
“We can all disagree on the process, and argue merits. But never should we use terms like ‘lynching’ here. The painful scourge in our history has no comparison to politics, and @realDonaldTrump should retract this immediately. May God help us to return to a better way,” the congressman tweeted.
Republican Sen. Tim Scott, the only African American Republican senator, said he understands the President’s frustrations but wouldn’t use “the word lynching.”
“This is the political version of a death row trial. I get his absolute rejection of the process,” he said.
He added, “I wouldn’t use the word lynching but I would love for the House to take up the unanimous passed legislation from the Senate instead of simply complaining about the President’s use of it.”
Scott was referring to the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, which he co-sponsored with Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. The bill passed the Senate with unanimous consent in February.
Defended by Graham
Some Republicans, however, have even more strongly defended the President’s comment.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, defended the tweet.
“I think that’s pretty well accurate,” Graham told reporters. “This is a sham. This is a joke. I’m going to let the whole world know that if we were doing this to a Democratic President you would be all over me right now.”
“So yeah this is a lynching, in every sense. This in un-American,” Graham said.
When Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was asked if Trump’s “lynching” tweet was appropriate, he said: “The President is frustrated.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Ellie Kaufman, Suzanne Malveaux, Manu Raju and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.