Monday 21 October 2019

Trump refuses to rule out the death penalty for FBI team

Backing: Donald Trump talks to the media in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Backing: Donald Trump talks to the media in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tom Embury-Dennis

Donald Trump conspicuously failed to deny former FBI officials involved in probes into his presidential campaign should be put to death for what he describes as treason.

The US president listed former FBI directors James Comey and Andrew McCabe, as well as agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, when asked who he was accusing of treason.

Critical: Nancy Pelosi said Trump might want to take a holiday. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Critical: Nancy Pelosi said Trump might want to take a holiday. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

"Sir, the constitution says treason is punishable by death. You've accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?" NBC journalist Peter Alexander asked Mr Trump during a White House event.

"Well I think a number of people, and I think what (sic) you look is that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person," Mr Trump responded.

"If you look at Comey, if you look at McCabe, if you look at probably people higher than that. If you look at Strzok, if you look at his lover Lisa Page, his wonderful lover.

"The two lovers they talked openly. You know they didn't use their private server because they didn't want to get caught, so they used the government server. That was not a good move."

Mr Trump has long railed against the four officials he falsely accused of treason.

The president's 2017 firing of Mr Comey, who he then blamed for "this Russia thing", led to the appointment of both Mr McCabe as FBI chief and the launch of Robert Mueller's investigation.

The bizarre comments came after Mr Trump traded insults with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the previous day.

The enmity between Mr Trump and Ms Pelosi deteriorated into rude-and-then-some questioning of his fitness for office and her sanity, with personal attacks flowing from both.

The bitter exchanges left it uncertain ahead of the 2020 election whether Mr Trump and the Democrats will be able to work together on funding the government and raising the federal borrowing limit, let alone thornier issues such as immigration, national security and more.

Ms Pelosi openly questioned Mr Trump's fitness to remain in office. The California Democrat described a pattern of "stunts" by the president to change the subject amid the investigations and unflattering news about him.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump stormed out of a meeting with Democrats that had been set up to talk about how to pay for a $2trn (€1.8trn) package to repair the nation's roads and bridges.

Ms Pelosi told her weekly news conference: "I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country."

And she suggested: "Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence."

The flare-up between Mr Trump and Democratic congressional leaders came as Mr Trump has refused Democrats' demand for documents and testimony in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's election meddling and contacts with the Trump campaign.

Mr Trump, describing Ms Pelosi, said: "She's a mess.

"Crazy Nancy... I watched Nancy and she was all crazy yesterday."

As for himself, he declared: "I'm an extremely stable genius."

But Ms Pelosi hit back: "When the 'extremely stable genius' starts acting more presidential, I'll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues," she tweeted.

With regard to Mr Trump's earlier comments it was not clear who "people higher than" Mr Comey was a reference to, but in the previous administration only the attorney general and former president Barack Obama would rank as more senior.

Mr Strzok and Ms Page have long been subject of Republican suspicions after it emerged the pair, who were in an extramarital affair while investigating Mr Trump, exchanged texts disparaging of the then presidential candidate. Mr Mueller later removed Mr Strzok from his team once the texts emerged, including one in which Mr Strzok told Ms Page the probe was an "insurance policy" in case Mr Trump won.

Experts have said Mr Trump's treason accusations are baseless, since the founders narrowly defined the crime in the US constitution as "levying war" against the US or "adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort".

The White House has been contacted for comment.

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