During an impromptu White House press conference to officially announce $16 billion in federal financial assistance to American farmers and ranchers hurt by the president’s ongoing trade war with China, a reporter confronted President Trump over his past remarks about treason.
“Sir, the Constitution says treason is punishable by death. You’ve accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you talking about?” NBC’s Peter Alexander asked Trump.
“Well,” Trump replied, “I think a number of people. And I think what you look is that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.”
“Who specifically?” Alexander pressed.
“If you look at [former FBI director James] Comey,” Trump said, “if you look at [former FBI deputy director Andrew] McCabe, if you look at people probably higher than that. If you look at [Peter] Strozk, if you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover. They talked openly. They didn’t use their private server because they didn’t want to get caught. So they used the government server. That was not a good move.”
REPORTER: Sir, the constitution says treason is punishable by death. You've accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?
TRUMP: A number of people. If you look at Comey, McCabe, if you look at Strzok, his lover Lisa Page… 😳 pic.twitter.com/6louyWsqaa
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 23, 2019
Earlier this month, Trump tweeted: “My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!”
My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2019
An expert told the Washington Post that the constitutional definition of treason to which Alexander referred is very specific in its scope.
“You can commit treason in one of two ways,” Carlton F.W. Larson, professor of law at the University of California at Davis and author of the upcoming book “The Trials of Allegiance: Treason, Juries and the American Revolution,” said when we spoke by phone. “One is you can levy war against the United States, which is essentially raising an internal rebellion to overthrow the government. … The other would be adhering to the enemy, giving them aid and comfort. And ‘enemy’ is defined very precisely as foreign nations or groups with whom we are in a state of open war.”