Clyburn hits out at Trump over Gestapo comment: ‘Incredible but not surprising’

Senior congressional Democrat James Clyburn has responded to remarks made by Donald Trump at a private event on Saturday in which he compared the Biden administration with the Gestapo secret police in fascist Germany, saying it was “incredible but it’s not surprising”.

The 83-year-old South Carolina Democrat added that Trump “is given to hyperbole on every subject that he ever approaches … The country got off track after that 1876 election and we are approaching the same kinds of elements today.”

The 1876 election between Republican Ohio governor Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden was one of the most disputed ever, with widespread allegations of electoral fraud, violence and voter disenfranchisement.

Clyburn accused Trump of having an “understanding of this country that I thought we left behind more than 100 years ago. But as I watch things happen in the country today, I’ve been harkening back for some time now, to the 1876 presidential election, and how this country got off track after the civil war.

“The words are different. But the meanings are the same,” Clyburn added.

On Saturday, the former president hosted a private lunch for Republican donors and party leaders at his Mar-a-Lago club. The fundraiser also included many of those presumed to be on his list for a running mate, including the South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, who has been politically damaged by an admission in her memoir that she shot a 14-month-old hunting dog two decades ago. She is reported to have left the event early.

Others at the lunch included North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, Ohio senator JD Vance, New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, South Carolina senator Tim Scott, Florida senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Byron Donalds.

According to CNN, Trump singled out Stefanik, who he described as “an amazing talent”, as well as Marco Rubio. NBC reported that Trump brought all the guests on stage – except Noem – including House speaker Mike Johnson.

But during an address that lasted over an hour, Trump likened the Biden administration to Hitler’s feared secret police. “These people are running a Gestapo administration,” Trump said, according to NBC News. “It’s the only thing they have. And it’s the only way they’re going to win in their opinion.”

The Republican governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota, appearing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, essentially confirmed Trump’s statement, but tried to diminish its importance.

“This was a short comment deep into the thing that wasn’t really central to what he was talking about,” said Burgum, who is among the contenders to be Trump’s running mate.

Burgum affirmed that Trump drew the parallel as part of his accusation that Biden’s White House is behind his legal troubles. “A majority of Americans,” Burgum said, “feel like the trial that he’s in right now is politically motivated”.

Trump is due back in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday where he is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree in relation to hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

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