The dictionary meaning of treason is as follows: The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government.
In the same sort of category might be these other actions or behaviours:
Treason certainly has connotations of disloyalty, but not quite in the way Donald Trump is increasingly using the word.
The whistleblower, Mr Trump says, has committed treason. So has Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee. It may be only a matter of time before he starts calling long-time Republican Senator Chuck Grassley a traitor too. Mr Grassley, after all, offered the sage advice that the whistleblower “ought to be heard out and protected.” And then there’s the Republican congressman from Nevada Mark Amodei. Asked what he thought of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, he said: “Let’s put it through the process and see what happens.” That’s rather a mild comment, but who knows when that will become treasonous too?
Certainly Mr Trump’s reliance on the word “treason” appears to be growing as the impeachment inquiry moves ahead (despite the many, rather significant roadblocks thrown up by members of his administration).
The overwhelming sense is that anyone who questions the president’s right to do whatever he wants is committing treason. Anyone who dares mention rule of law in relation to Mr Trump is supposedly engaged in an act of mutiny. That’s odd considering the US is a constitutional republic, and a nation governed by laws, not men.
But as Barnard College political science professor Sheri Berman told The New York Times: “He (Mr Trump) seems to confuse lack of loyalty to himself with treason, thereby at the very least conflating the office of the presidency with the country as a whole.”
The dangers of this mindset lie in the extent of chaos that Mr Trump seems prepared to provoke. Already, he has said he is the victim of a “coup”. As his secretary of state Mike Pompeo tried to stall the impeachment inquiry, Mr Trump tweeted the following: “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”
He has also suggested that a civil war would break out if he were impeached. Such grand delusions would be laughable if they weren’t so dangerous. The office of POTUS has a bully pulpit – and a megaphone.