The Wall Street Journal asked Donald Trump yesterday whether he wants congressional Republicans to shut down investigations into the Russia scandal. The president said no, before insisting that Democrats colluded with Russians during the campaign, which Trump says with increasing frequency, despite the fact that the claim is plainly ridiculous.
But unprompted, he quickly transitioned to throwing around accusations of treason.
TRUMP: What went on with the FBI, where a man is tweeting to his lover that if she loses, we’ll essentially go back to the – we’ll go to the “insurance policy,” which is – if they lose, we’ll go to phase 2, and we’ll get this guy out of office. I mean, this is the FBI we’re talking about. I think that is – that is treason. See, that’s treason right there.
WSJ: Does any of that make you less…
TRUMP: By the way, that’s a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.
As a rule, sitting presidents should be cautious about casually throwing around accusations of treason, and in this case, Trump’s recklessness is especially tough to defend.
In case it’s unclear who and what Trump is referring to, Rachel explained on the show last night that the president was attacking Peter Strzok, the former deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and Lisa Page, an FBI attorney. The Justice Department obtained and publicly released texts they shared personally during the 2016 campaign.
To be sure, Strzok and Page expressed strong political opinions, including sharing criticisms of Trump with one another. There were also texts, however, in which they criticized Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Eric Holder. Nevertheless, Strzok was later removed from Special Counsel’s Robert Mueller’s team.
There was one text that referred to an “insurance policy,” but unlike what the president claimed, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that the message “was meant to convey that the bureau needed to aggressively investigate allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia…. The agent didn’t intend to suggest a secret plan to harm the candidate but rather address a colleague who believed the Federal Bureau of Investigation could take its time because Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was certain to win the election.”
If we’re being charitable, for a sitting president to see this and publicly accuse two FBI officials of “treason” suggests Trump may not know what “treason” means.