The Slatest

The President Implied the Former Director of the FBI Should Be Executed for Treason and Everyone Was Like, “Ha Ha, Classic”

Trump and Comey shake hands as Trump speaks into Comey's ear.
Donald Trump and James Comey at the White House on Jan. 22, 2017 at the White House, before their relationship deteriorated and one suggested that the other should be executed.
Andrew Harrer/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump believes the investigation into his campaign’s connections to Russia, the one that was launched by the FBI and later carried out by Robert Mueller’s special counsel’s office, was illegitimate. To put his objections as coherently as possible, he believes the inquiry was not properly “predicated”—that it was created, without an adequate basis of evidence, in order to damage him politically. If you read the Mueller report, you can see that this is probably not true—that there were all sorts of suspicious interactions between Russians and Trump campaign figures happening at the same time that Russia was carrying out an intelligence operation against his opponent—but it’s what Trump believes. He claims the inquiry was unprecedented in American history (dubious—Spiro Agnew was successfully investigated for bribery-related tax evasion while he was vice president) and that it was treasonous (also no—treason is waging war against the U.S. or helping one of its enemies.)

On Thursday in the Oval Office, an NBC reporter noted to Trump that treason is punishable by death and then asked him who he felt, specifically, had committed treason in the course of the Russia investigation. The president responded by naming four FBI officials—former director James Comey, former deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page—who’d been involved in the case.

And that was it! Twitter was briefly incredulous, a few articles were posted, but for the most part it was not considered really newsworthy that the POTUS had casually tossed out the idea of executing the FBI’s previous leadership team. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate didn’t comment on it; it’s not even mentioned right now on the New York Times homepage; you have to scroll way down to the bottom of CNN.com to find it. The other players in government, and the public at large, have become accustomed to the idea that the president is just going to suggest things that are clearly inappropriate or illegal, all the time, which get written off as hyperbole, except he often follows through on them, just as he’s reportedly about to follow through on his frequent rhetorical celebration of war crimes by pardoning a group of convicted and accused war criminals.

Don’t kill me for saying this (hahahahaha), but I feel like this is an upsetting state of affairs, even as I frequently participate in it, because what else are you going to do except laugh?

Have a great Memorial Day!