Last week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi officially announced that the House of Representatives would begin impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump, based on how he conducted himself during a phone call with his counterpart from Ukraine.
Trump allegedly put pressure on Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into a potential rival of Trump’s during the 2020 presidential election, former vice president and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Undoubtedly, the details and evidence from that conversation collected from Democrats in the House will be scrutinized, as well other aspects that could render Trump impeachable (the findings from the Mueller report, Emoluments clause violations, etc.). But what about Trump’s behavior after the inquiry was announced?
Over the weekend, for example, Trump wrote in a series of tweets that he believed the actions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff were treasonous. Schiff is leading the impeachment inquiry at this time, and “parodied” Trump’s words from a memo during a hearing last week, which the president took issue with.
“He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason,” Trump tweeted, per reporting from USA Today. Trump also demanded to meet with the whistleblower directly, who initially supplied evidence of the Ukraine call, and also those who handed over the information about the call to that person in the first place.
“Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big consequences!” Trump wrote.
This morning, Trump falsely accused Rep. Adam Schiff of treason and suggested he be arrested https://t.co/Kfw3Ay3J2W
— Axios (@axios) September 30, 2019
The president ought to be careful about attacks like these, if his goal is to avoid impeachment, because it’s possible that these and other instances of Trump threatening treason could themselves become part of the cause for impeachment itself.
Trump’s actions could demonstrate further acts of obstruction of justice — by making these comments, Trump is hoping for the inquiry to be ended altogether. His threats of treason (an offense for which the penalty is death) are also a grave misuse of his office, according to many on social media who have so far responded to them.
It may be that Trump’s previous threats of treason toward others may add weight to the argument, too, that they can be used against him in the upcoming impeachment hearings.
In November 2018, Trump retweeted an image of former President Barack Obama, former deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and former special counsel Robert Mueller, which suggested they (and others) deserved to face treason trials. And in an interview in March, Trump described the Mueller Report to Fox News host Sean Hannity as “treasonous acts” against him.
It appears as though Trump defines any act that goes against his presidency as treason. If he’s serious about the charges — if he truly thinks people should be punished for investigating his administration, or for holding them to account for their actions — then those threats ought to be considered by Democrats as an abuse of his office.