In a Twitter message posted on Friday, President Donald Trump accused members of the intelligence community of 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!” the president wrote.
Vox described Trump’s accusation as “reckless,” and “straight out of the authoritarian playbook,” pointing out that the United States Constitution defines treason as helping “enemies” of a country with which the U.S. is at war. Therefore, whatever the FBI did investigating the Trump campaign in 2016, that effort does not even come close to treason as it is legally defined.
But legal definitions have not stopped the president for alleging treason. In fact, accusing perceived political opponents of high crimes is not out of the ordinary for President Trump as he has done so on many occasions, frequently alleging that hostile elements within the intelligence community are conspiring with the Democratic Party to take him down.
But, according to former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah, Trump’s threats and accusations should not be taken lightly. Rocah said that Trump’s “treason” tweet “terrifies” her, Newsweek reports.
Rocah, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern district of New York, explained that while this is not the first time for Trump to accuse perceived political opponents of treason, his allegations now carry more weight given that Attorney General William Barr appears to be in agreement with the president.
“First I was outraged at these kinds of tweets — how could a POTUS talk like this? After a while, I rolled my eyes & shrugged them off as meaningless & repetitive nonsense. Now, especially because of Barr, this gives me chills & terrifies me. Nothing seems inconceivable anymore.”
As Newsweek notes in a recent Fox News interview, Barr seemingly agreed with Trump’s assessment of the situation, adding that an “ad hoc small group” of intelligence officials appears to have conspired against the president, unlawfully spying on his campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Barr’s statements were widely-condemned and interpreted in the context of Trump’s past yearning for a loyal attorney general, as detailed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his report.
Will the Democrats in the House suffer a rebellion by the party base if they do not push for the impeachment of President Trump? https://t.co/f4UhHHXa6j
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 18, 2019
Rocah is not the only legal expert to believe that Trump’s most recent statements are unprecedented and dangerous. Pointing out that treason is narrowly defined in the Constitution, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said that the president’s message is “clear,” blasting Barr for “stoking” Trump’s rhetoric instead of opposing it.
— The Hill (@thehill) May 18, 2019
The Democratic Party has not managed to damage Trump in a significant way, it seems. According to The New York Times, House Democrats are pinning their hopes on Robert Mueller — who cleared Trump of collusion and refused to charge him with obstruction — once again, since they have failed to “dramatize” his findings as they had hoped to.