Jan 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Clyburn: Assault had big effect on Black Americans

Rep. James Clyburn is seen walking through the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. James Clyburn. Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images

Last week's assault on the Capitol felt personal to Black Americans, who found the violence similar to what they experienced during the civil rights riots of the 1960s, Rep. James Clyburn told Axios.

Why it matters: Clyburn said the pitched assault by President Trump's supporters, some of whom have ties to white supremacist movements, has prompted an important question for him and many African Americans: "Are we getting ready to repeat some history that we thought we'd successfully gotten behind us?"

The answer is not what some might expect.

  • The South Carolina Democrat said impeaching Trump for helping trigger the mayhem represents a "renewal" for the country after four years of questioning "whether democracy is on the wane" because of the president's unchecked actions. 

Background: The country's seat of government was targeted by mobs carrying Confederate flags and shouting racist attacks, including some directed at Black U.S. Capitol Police officers. Those acts infuriated Black lawmakers.

  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said during a Congressional Black Caucus briefing Wednesday that "this president is headed toward a civil war, and we are the object of their hate."
  • During the impeachment remarks on the House floor, freshman Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) called Trump "a white supremacist president who incited a white supremacist insurrection."

What they're saying: In a phone call with Axios on Thursday, Clyburn said that even if the Senate doesn't convict him, Trump "has not gotten away with" the charges or the resulting stain on his political legacy. 

  • "The Trump presidency reminded us that there are a lot of things from our past that we could very well revisit, and I think he set out to do that," Clyburn said. "I might not be so concerned about these things if I had not spent my entire life studying history."
  • "Woodrow Wilson got away with it, and I was hopeful Trump wouldn’t get away with it," said Clyburn. Impeaching him, Clyburn said is "what I mean when I said, ‘renewal.’” 
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