President Trump and his allies often compare the investigations against him to witch hunts. On Tuesday, Rudy Guiliani, the president’s personal attorney, went so far as to compare the impeachment inquiry to the Salem witch trials.

“Even Salem witch trials didn’t use anonymous testimony. The accused had to be confronted by a witness willing to put their name and reputation behind the charges and then had to be available for cross examination,” he tweeted.

The Salem witch trials — which occurred in 1692 and resulted in the deaths of 27 men and women after they were accused of performing witchcraft — were based on the accusations of young girls.


According to the Salem Witch Museum, the girls claimed to be possessed and tormented by the people whose names they “cried out.” These accusations of witchcraft were taken before the special Court of Oyer and Terminer, which Peter Charles Hoffer, a historian at the University of Georgia, noted in his book “Law and People in Colonial America” had “no trained lawyers on the bench.”

Instead, it was made up of men who “all believed that there was a devil and that he contracted secretly with men and women to do his evil work in the colony.”

The court that oversaw the witch trials also recognized spectral evidence despite the fact that it was not part of the accepted procedure of the time. Spectral evidence is defined as “witness testimony that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to [the] witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location.”

In contrast, Article II of the US Constitution grants Congress impeachment powers to remove federal officials from office based on investigation in the House and a trial in the Senate. Members of both houses are popularly elected and nearly 200 of the members of Congress are attorneys.


Giuliani’s tweet prompted a response from Representative Seth Moulton of Salem, who has refuted Trump allies’ claims about the witch trials in the past.

“This still isn’t a witch hunt,” he wrote.

Abbi Matheson can be reached at abbi.matheson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AbbiMatheson.