News & Politics

Wait, What Did Clyburn Mean When He Said 'Let’s Give Him a Fair Trial and Hang Him'?

On Thursday morning, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, said something very strange. The House of Representatives had voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, but Nancy Pelosi suggested they might not send the articles of impeachment on to the Senate for a trial. Clyburn defended that idea. Then he said, “Let’s give him a fair trial and hang him. It’s the reverse of that.”

Naturally, the Trump re-election campaign seized on the comment.

“The number 3 House Democrat, James Clyburn, just said this about President Trump: ‘Hang him!’ This hatred and anger is out of control!” Trump War Room tweeted.

CNN’s Oliver Darcy objected.

“That’s not what happened. Clyburn was making the point that he doesn’t think McConnell will run a fair trial because of the comments he’s made. Clyburn compared it to someone saying ahead of a trial, ‘Let’s give him a trial and hang him.’ He said it’s like ‘the reverse of that,'” Darcy tweeted.

Pushback did not just come from liberal-leaning outlets like CNN, however. Conservative strategist Caleb Hull Also argued that the clip of Clyburn’s comments was “extremely misleading.”

Clyburn was talking about House and Senate impeachment process. He was not calling for Trump’s hanging. However, his language was confusing, and it remains unclear just what he meant.

The leading Democrat warned that if the articles went to the Senate, McConnell would acquit the president. He warned that McConnell “will collude — if you please — with the White House.”

“If you have a pre-ordained outcome that’s negative to your actions, why walk into it? I’d much rather not take that chance,” he said. That is clear enough: the Senate has a Republican majority, so if the House does not want the Senate to clear Trump of the impeachment charges, Democrats could just refuse to pass them on.

Yet Clyburn also said this. “Keep it as long as it takes. If you know that he’s told you what he’s going to do, like ‘Let’s give him a fair trial and hang him.’ I mean, it’s the reverse of that.”

Did he mean the Senate’s supposedly pre-ordained trial would be “the reverse” of “Let’s give him a fair trial and hang him?” Or did he mean the Democrats holding up the articles of impeachment is “the reverse” of “Let’s give him a fair trial and hang him?” Does it even matter?

It seems Clyburn may have intentionally shoe-horned that statement into his remarks in order to gin up controversy.

Watch the full segment here.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.