Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) responded directly to Donald Trump’s calling black lawmakers who wouldn’t applaud him “treasonous,” rejecting the president’s dangerous and divisive attack.
At an official White House event in Ohio Monday, Trump said it was “treasonous” and “un-American” when black lawmakers did not applaud him during his State of the Union address, when he tried to take credit for economic gains made under President Barack Obama.
“Can we call that treason? Why not!” Trump said. “I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
Speaking on the floor of the House Tuesday, Jeffries used time afforded to lawmakers for one-minute speeches to respond to Trump’s attack and to the White House’s spin that it was merely a joke.
“Treason is not a laughing matter. It is a serious crime embedded in the Constitution, punishable by death,” he said.
This was in response to deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, who said Trump’s comments were “tongue-in-cheek.” Gidley represents Trump’s press operation, again forced to go out and play cleanup after one of his outrageous remarks.
“Is it treason for a presidential campaign to meet with a hostile foreign power to sell out our democracy and rig the election?” Jeffries asked. “Is it treason for a presidential campaign to meet with Russian spies who promised information that was negative about a political opponent, and then failed to report that meeting to law enforcement officials? Is it treason for your former national security adviser to be a Russian asset, sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin?”
He concluded on a strong note to Trump: “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 of America.”
Trump has repeatedly used his bully pulpit to demonize and threaten his political rivals and the free press in a matter completely unhinged from American tradition and values.
Elected officials like Jeffries have made clear that what Trump is doing is beyond the pale and are refusing to be quiet about it.
Former research fellow at Media Matters for America who has been blogging about politics since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @owillis.