Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday called President Trump's use of the word "lynching" to describe the House impeachment investigation "unfortunate," even as some Republicans have accused their Democratic colleagues of flagrant hypocrisy on the issue.
In a tweet Tuesday, Trump compared the House impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine to "a lynching," essentially likening the horrors of a deadly and racist chapter in U.S. history to a process laid out in the Constitution.
The president added: "All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching."
His words have brought bipartisan condemnation. McConnell, speaking to reporters, said "that was an unfortunate choice of words."
McConnell added: "Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching."
But, some Republicans pointed to video showing prominent Democrats, including Reps. Gregory Meeks and Danny Davis, calling Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings a de facto "lynching" in 1998.
GOP Rapid Response Director Steve Guest also pointed to an October 2008 comment from now-Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y, that was published in an Associated Press article.
The quote from Nadler read: "I am the president’s defender in the sense that I haven’t seen anything yet that would rise, in my opinion, to the level of impeachable offense. … I wish we could get this over with quickly. … In pushing the process, in pushing the arguments of fairness and due process the Republicans so far have been running a lynch mob."
This time around, however, Democrats have sounded a sterner tone.
"That is one word no president ought to apply to himself," said South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress. "That is a word that we ought to be very, very careful about using."
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who is also black, called on Trump to delete his tweet.
"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. Delete this tweet," Rush wrote.
"This is a lynching in every sense."
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., tweeted to Trump: "No sir! No, @realDonaldTrump: this is NOT a lynching, and shame on you for invoking such a horrific act that was used as a weapon to terrorize and murder African Americans."
The New York Times, in a tweet, condemned Trump for "using a term that invokes the decades-long racist history of white mob murders of black people to describe a legal process laid out in the Constitution."
Meanwhile, Republican legislators largely tried to put the focus on what they said was the unfair way in which Democrats are conducting the inquiry.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Trump's description was "pretty well accurate." He called the impeachment effort a "sham" and a "joke" because the president does not know the identity of his accuser, and the process is playing out in private.
"This is a lynching in every sense," said Graham, who is close to Trump.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate's only black Republican, agreed with Trump's sentiment but not his word choice.
"There's no question that the impeachment process is the closest thing (to) a political death row trial, so I get his absolute rejection of the process," Scott said. He added, "I wouldn't use the word lynching."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.