Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries slammed President Trump for suggesting it was treasonous for Democrats not to applaud during his State of the Union and questioned whether the president and his officials have themselves engaged in treasonous acts.
“Treason is not a laughing matter,” Jeffries, of New York, said during a speech on the House floor Tuesday. “It is a serious crime embedded in the Constitution, punishable by death. But since your commander in chief chose to raise it at a political rally, let’s have a discussion about treason.”
Jeffries then questioned whether it was treason for a presidential campaign to “meet with a hostile foreign power to sell out our democracy and rig the election.” He also asked whether it is considered treason for members of Trump’s presidential campaign to “meet with Russian spies who promise information that was negative about a political opponent, and then fail to report that meeting to law enforcement officials.”
The New York Democrat was referencing a meeting Donald Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner attended at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer. Trump Jr. said he attended the meeting after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
.@RepJeffries: "How dare you lecture us about treason. This is not a dictatorship. It's a democracy and we do not have to stand for a reality show host masquerading as President of the United States." pic.twitter.com/Zor7XrAATe— CSPAN (@cspan) February 6, 2018
Jeffries further questioned whether it was treason for Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, “to be a Russian asset sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin.”
Flynn was fired in February 2017 for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
“How dare you lecture us about treason,” Jeffries said of Trump. “This is not a dictatorship. It’s a democracy, and we do not have to stand for a reality show host masquerading as president of the United States of America.”
Trump said during a speech in Ohio on Monday that Democrats who didn’t clap during the State of the Union last week were “un-American” and “treasonous.”
"You're up there, and you have half the room going totally crazy wild. They loved everything; they want to do something great for our country," Trump said. "And you have the other side, even on positive news, really positive news like that, they were like death. And un-American, un-American."
"Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yeah, I guess why not,” he continued. “Can we call that treason? Why not. They certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told NBC News on Tuesday the president’s remark was “tongue in cheek.”