White House spokesman: Trump didn't mean to compare his experience with 'darkest moments' in US history

The White House on Tuesday sought to soft-pedal President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' GOP sues California over Newsom's vote-by-mail order MORE's comparison of the impeachment inquiry targeting him to a "lynching," with a spokesman saying Trump was not comparing his experience to "dark times" in U.S. history. 

“The president is not comparing what’s happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley insisted in a back-and-forth with reporters at the White House. 

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“What he’s explaining, clearly, is the way he has been treated by the media since he announced for president.”

Gidley insisted that Trump has been treated unfairly throughout  the impeachment process, accusing Democrats of not affording him due process.

The White House spokesman sidestepped questions from reporters about whether he would condemn the word “lynching,” or whether he agreed with Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden seeks to tamp down controversy over remarks about black support African American figures slam Biden on 'you ain't black' comments Biden regrets remarks about black support: 'I shouldn't have been such a wise guy' MORE (S.C.), the only African American Republican in the U.S. Senate, that Trump should not have used the word.

Gidley instead sought to shift focus to how the Trump administration’s policies have benefited the African American community, pointing to progress on criminal justice reform, the creation of opportunity zones in inner cities and record low unemployment among African Americans.  

“People are upset about President Trump’s words all the time, but what you can’t argue with are the results he has put forth for the African American community,” Gidley told reporters.

Trump ushered in a torrent of criticism from lawmakers, including from some Republicans, after he suggested early Tuesday that House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry was akin to a “lynching” — a word that describes the extrajudicial killings of African Americans.

“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!” Trump tweeted.

A number of prominent Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates eviscerated Trump for the remark.

“You are comparing a constitutional process to the PREVALENT and SYSTEMATIC brutal torture of people in THIS COUNTRY that looked like me?” Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassCOVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system Minority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic Hispanic leaders warn census could undercount minority communities amid pandemic MORE (D-Calif.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, tweeted.

Some Republicans have also broken with Trump over the comments, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead GOP pulls support from California House candidate over 'unacceptable' social media posts MORE (R-Calif.), who offered tepid criticism by saying he disagreed with Trump’s use of the word.

Several Republicans have also come to Trump’s defense, including Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races Schumer dubs GOP 'conspiracy caucus' amid Obama-era probes MORE (R-S.C.) who asserted the impeachment inquiry is “lynching in every sense.”

Trump has employed increasingly caustic rhetoric to respond to the quickening impeachment inquiry, accusing Democrats of a “coup” and calling the investigation “bullshit.” Trump has denied anything improper in his interactions with Ukraine, which are the subject of the impeachment inquiry.

The White House has refused to cooperate with the ongoing probe, raising due process and other legal issues with the inquiry and casting it as an illegitimate attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election.

The White House and Trump’s Republican allies have criticized Democrats for not holding a vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry, for conducting interviews in private and for refusing Republicans the right to subpoena their own witnesses, among other things.

Trump’s tweet Tuesday came as a top U.S. diplomat prepared to testify behind closed doors about issues he raised regarding the administration’s interactions with Ukraine.

Democrats are focusing on a July 25 call during with Trump asked Ukraine’s leader to look into allegations about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' How will COVID-19 affect the Hispanic vote come November? MORE. The phone call triggered a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump tried to use his official position to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.