AILSA CHANG, HOST:
As he does most mornings, President Trump tweeted his thoughts about the impeachment inquiry. But this time, his language describing the probe drew swift bipartisan opposition. That is because the president compared the impeachment inquiry to vigilante murders of African Americans. He tweeted, quote, "All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching."
NPR's White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe joins us now.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.
CHANG: So is there any kind of world where this impeachment inquiry could be compared to a lynching?
RASCOE: No, not at all. To be clear, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the U.S. after the Civil War, through the civil rights movement. We're talking about acts of terror, people being tortured, mutilated and murdered. That is the reality of lynching in America. What is happening to Trump is a constitutional process. It is not violent and may not even result in his removal from office.
CHANG: So nowhere near the universe of actual lynching. What are lawmakers on both sides saying about the president's use of language today?
RASCOE: Well, Democrats immediately said this is totally inappropriate and unacceptable, and many top Republicans also pushed back. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he does not agree with the impeachment probe, but he does not think Trump should use that term. Here's what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MITCH MCCONNELL: Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching. That was an unfortunate choice of words. It is an unfair process, and a better way to characterize it would be to call it an unfair process.
RASCOE: So that's McConnell basically saying the president went too far. And this is at a point when Trump has tried to stress that he wants Republicans to remain united against impeachment.
CHANG: What has the White House been saying in response to all of this uproar? I mean, has anyone been willing to defend the president here?
RASCOE: So White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Trump was not referring to this dark period in U.S. history and instead said he was talking about the way President Trump has been treated by the media.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HOGAN GIDLEY: He has used many words to describe the way he has been relentlessly attacked, and 93% of the news coverage against him is negative. Let's talk about what the president's actually done for the African American community.
RASCOE: It is true that Trump has used a lot of negative words for any investigation of him or his administration. He called Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation a witch hunt, and he called impeachment a sham. But those words obviously don't carry the weight and the history of lynching.
CHANG: No, they don't. So let's be clear here about something. This isn't some isolated incident for Trump. He does have a history of using loaded language, right?
RASCOE: Yeah. Trump has used these tropes and stereotypes and racist language against nonwhite lawmakers. He has called black lawmakers low IQ and referred to a mostly black district as a - rat- and rodent-infested. His rhetoric around race has been divisive and polarizing. And now in this moment, he's comparing his plight as president to that of African Americans who were viciously murdered. This is in line with Trump casting himself as a victim of historic proportions without regard to actual historic events. He said that he's been treated worse than any president in U.S. history when, in this country, we have had multiple presidents assassinated.
My colleague Tamara Keith did an analysis, and she found that the president's language is getting more and more extreme as he faces more pressure and that he's using heated phrases like coup and treason more and more. And the month of October is said to be a record for this year in his use of those types of phrases.
CHANG: That's NPR's White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
RASCOE: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.