Donald Trump used the “t” word again yesterday, quoting something he saw on Fox News. The president wrote on Twitter, “ ‘Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government.’ @foxandfriends A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!”
Asked about this at a cabinet meeting yesterday, Trump didn’t repeat the “treason” allegation, but as the transcript made clear, he repeated the underlying concerns.
“Well, what we’re doing with China, first of all – you know, Thiel is a friend of mine. He’s a tremendous contributor. He’s a big – he’s a big – he spoke at our convention – at the Republican National Convention. Peter is a brilliant young man – one of the most successful people in Silicon Valley. I guess he was an original investor in some of these biggest – biggest companies, including Facebook, I understand.
“Yeah, he made a very strong charge. He’s one of the top – maybe the top expert on all of those things. And he made a very big statement about Google. And I would like to recommend to the various agencies, including perhaps our Attorney General, who is with us, to maybe take a look. It’s a big statement, when you say that, you know, Google is involved with China in not a very positive way for our country.
“So I think we’ll all look at that. I know that our other agencies will be looking at it. And we’ll see if there’s any truth to it. But that’s a very big statement, made by somebody who’s highly respected. So we’ll certainly take a look at that.”
It was hard not to wonder what in the world the president was talking about.
As it turns out, Thiel recently accused Google of working with the Chinese military. Fox News aired an 11-second news brief on the claim yesterday; Trump apparently saw it; and the result was a presidential directive about a federal investigation into one of the world’s largest tech giants.
This really isn’t how governing is supposed to work in a global superpower.
Indeed, the whole story is more than a little bizarre. Not only has Thiel offered no proof – he said the other day that he was merely “asking questions” – but Trump specifically met with Google CEO Sundar Pichai about this months ago, and the president was pleased with what he heard. (Trump even tweeted about his satisfaction.)
And yet, there was the president yesterday, making a public, knee-jerk reaction because he saw a news brief on Fox News – a report that was shorter than a typical commercial – leading him to publish the word “treason” again in reference to a perceived foe.
As regular readers know, these weren’t isolated incidents. Last fall, the New York Times published a rather extraordinary op-ed, written by “a senior official in the Trump administration,” describing a White House in which “many” officials work diligently behind the scenes to subvert Donald Trump. The president suggested the newspaper may have committed “treason” by agreeing to run it.
A few months before that, the president was so bothered by media coverage of his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un that he described the reports as “really almost treasonous.”
And a few months before that, while whining that Democrats failed to applaud his State of the Union address to his satisfaction, the president said Dems “certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much” – and then raised the prospect of Democratic “treason.”
If Trump doesn’t know what “treason” means, he probably ought to use the word far less frequently.