© Getty Images
The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) hammered Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE's "shackles" comment on Tuesday, saying the comments were "reckless" and harken back to the age of slavery.
Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldWHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill House Democrats push to introduce John Lewis voting rights bill within weeks Black Caucus presses Democratic leaders to expedite action on voting rights MORE (D-N.C.) accused the GOP nominee of adopting "dog-whistle" messaging tactics to appeal to the white working-class voters who largely constitute his base. It won't help him, Butterfield warned, with moderate Republicans and black voters already alienated by Trump's frequently incendiary campaign.
"The moment an African American hears the word 'shackles' it's reminiscent of the era of slavery," Butterfield said in a phone interview. "We're at a point now where Donald Trump is out of control. We don't know what's next."
Trump on Tuesday churned countless headlines when he took to Twitter to attack House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.), who had staged a conference call with House Republicans the day before to announce he would no longer defend or campaign with the GOP nominee. The call came just days after The Washington Post aired an 11-year-old video in which Trump boasts lewdly about groping and kissing women without consent — a revelation that's caused a number of Republican lawmakers to drop previous endorsements of their presidential candidate.
Trump, who's had a rocky relationship with Ryan throughout the campaign, did not appreciate the Speaker's maneuver.
“Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!” Trump tweeted. "Disloyal R's are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win — I will teach them!”
The Manhattan real estate mogul then suggested Ryan's new vow of distance will benefit Trump's presidential bid.
"It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to," he tweeted.
Butterfield praised Ryan's move, saying the Speaker "is displaying leadership and character" that shows "the very best" side of the Republican Party. Although Ryan has not dropped his official endorsement of Trump, Butterfield said the distance he established this week is, essentially, a disavowal.
"The implication from his statements is … that even Paul Ryan may not vote for him," he said.
Democratic leaders are increasingly optimistic that Trump's name at the top of the ticket will be a boon to their party down the ballot, where they're hoping to make significant gains in both chambers on Nov. 8.
On Tuesday afternoon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who heads the Democrats' campaign arm, held a conference call of their own to update members on the House battlefield. The Democrats face steep odds, needing to flip 30 seats to retake the Speaker's gavel, but they've been emboldened by Trump's recent controversies, and the call focused "primarily" on the damning new video and "the total chaos that has ensued amongst House Republicans since," according to a source on the call.
Butterfield, who's traveled to a dozen states this year campaigning on behalf of Clinton, said the Trump effect has energized African-Americans and millennials, in particular.
"They see the danger of not participating in this election," Butterfield said. "It's going to boost all Democrats, from the White House to the court house."
It's hardly the first time the Black Caucus chairman has accused Trump of campaigning on racial divisions.
Last month, after Trump disavowed his long-held claims that President Obama might not have been born in the United States, Butterfield and a host of CBC members teed off on the GOP nominee with charges of overt racism.
"He would not have done that to a Mitt Romney; he would not have done that to a John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCollins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden Biden steps onto global stage with high-stakes UN speech MORE — or any other white who was running for president of the United States," Butterfield said at the time.
Trump's office did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.