The mayor of Salem, Massachusetts, told President Donald Trump on Tuesday to “learn some history” after he claimed that the people accused in the Salem witch trials had received more due process than he has gotten in the impeachment inquiry.
Mayor Kim Driscoll pointed out on Twitter that the Salem witch trials in 1692 involved “powerless, innocent victims” who were hung or pressed to death with stones despite an “absence of evidence.”
The 20 men and women executed after being accused of witchcraft were subjected to a judicial process that did not use the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, Trump excoriated the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, claiming that “(m)ore due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials,” and accusing Pelosi of portraying a “false display of solemnity” during the impeachment process. Trump has yet to face trial in the Senate; the House is expected to vote on impeachment on Wednesday.
Trump to Pelosi: "More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials." pic.twitter.com/6YqfHf2TAF
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) December 17, 2019
This is not the first time the president has deployed a defense evoking the witch trials. Throughout special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Trump called the inquiry a “witch hunt,” and Mueller later rebutted Trump’s claim in congressional testimony.
Driscoll noted that in Trump’s case, the accused is among the most powerful and privileged people in the world, and she said the case involves “ample evidence” and “admission of wrongdoing.”
“Will they ever learn some history? This situation is much different than the plight of the witch trial victims, who were convicted using spectral evidence + then brutally hanged or pressed to death. A dubious legal process that bears no relation to televised impeachment,” Driscoll said on Twitter.
The courts in Salem relied on three types of evidence: confession, the testimony of two eyewitnesses to acts of witchcraft, and evidence gleaned from dreams and the supernatural (called spectral evidence). Based on this “evidence,” the men and women were hanged or crushed by rocks.
Trump is not technically entitled to due process protections through the House impeachment proceeding, as it is an investigative process rather than a trial. The president would have significantly more due process rights during a Senate trial.
Trump also has chosen not to participate thus far, by instructing witnesses who have been subpoenaed not to testify and by not sending legal representatives to House Judiciary Committee hearings when they were invited.
In many cases during the witch trials, there was no way for the accused to clear their names and evidence was collected through means that would never be accepted in a modern court of law.