How Trump’s Defenders Will Be Remembered

The president falsely accused a sitting congressman of treason. Why do Republicans stand for this?

Man wearing MAGA hat
Butch Dill / AP

President Donald Trump swore to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, a document that declares, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”


On Sunday, Trump attacked Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat, claiming that Schiff falsely represented the president’s words to Congress. “His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber,” Trump alleged. “He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States.”

Trump added, “I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.” But even if Schiff had lied about Trump’s words in “the most blatant and sinister manner,” that would not be treason any more than it was treason when Trump lied about the birthplace of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, falsely implying that he was a foreign usurper holding his office illegitimately.

Trump’s statement does not merely represent a failure to protect and defend the Constitution. He said he wants someone at “the highest level” to do something that violates the Constitution––specifically, treating as “Treason” something other than levying war against America or aiding its enemies.

That is, Trump misused the charge of treason for political purposes. Anyone who does that is unworthy of the presidency.

The Framers wrote the Constitution as they did in part to guard against the possibility that Americans would elect a man so morally bankrupt and corrupt that he would falsely accuse political enemies of treason––historical context I noted earlier this year, when Trump previously issued false charges of treason.

Afterward, Trump faced no consequences. Little wonder that he has now violated his oath of office again in the same manner. If he is not stopped, he will continue to violate the Constitution rather than defend it, and to levy false charges against Americans, flagrantly abusing the nation’s most powerful office.

His behavior is a form of civic poison. Trump degrades the Oval Office and sets a bad example for children. The Republicans working to keep him in power could have Vice President Mike Pence take over within weeks if they so chose. They prefer this moral abomination.

May history remember them as men and women who watched a president falsely accuse a sitting member of Congress of treason, and did nothing.