No one, except for the scientists who hopefully get to study his cottage cheese brain, can really say with any certainty what’s going on in Donald Trump’s head. So all we can really go off is what actually comes out of his mouth or his fingers, and based on that, I can only guess that he likes the way “treason” rolls off the tongue and so he’s hellbent on using it against essentially everyone who’s ever wronged him.
That isn’t the definition of treason, of course, but so far Trump has used it to describe the Ukraine whistleblower, then House Intelligence committee chairman, and now, in a late Sunday tweet, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
The worst punishment for being convicted of treason, of course, isn’t just being “impeached,” but rather being killed by the state. Trump knows this. So the fact that he’s now using it to describe Nancy Pelosi, who had to be dragged to an impeachment inquiry kicking and screaming, is an indicator that it’s just a thing he thinks all of his political opponents are doing whenever they try to hold him accountable for his actions. (In 2018, Trump also floated it as a descriptor for Democrats who didn’t stand or clap for him during the State of the Union, which is, you know, fascist.)
The Trump administration and his defenders in the GOP might be operating under the assumption that you should take Trump seriously but not literally, but pretty much no one else is doing that. Nor should they. The president of the United States has quite literally the largest platform in the entire world. He’s using it to say what he means, and what he’s saying is dangerous, for some more than others, especially when you consider the precipitous spike in white supremacist groups and violence committed by white supremacists during the Trump era.
When the president speaks, millions of people hang on to every word. And the more Trump says shit like this, the more it seems like an inevitability that one of his most hardline followers decides that they can’t trust the Deep State to ensure Trump’s will be done and that they have to take action on their own. If and when that happens, it’ll be Trump who is responsible.