After Donald Trump called for Russia to commit espionage against his political opponent, Hillary Clinton, online searches for the definition of the word “treason” soared 76 percent, according to Merriam-Webster, a major dictionary company.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump said:
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Because of all the interest in the word “treason,” Merriam-Webster provided some background:
Treason comes to English from the Old French traison, which can be traced back to the Latin traditus, the past participle of tradere (“to hand over, betray”). Tradere is also the Latin origin of our word traitor.
Treason may refer broadly to a betrayal of trust or confidence, but in the sense relating to politics it is defined rather specifically as “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or his family,” and has a specifically legal meaning as well: “the act of levying war against the United States or adhering to or giving aid and comfort to its enemies by one who owes it allegiance.” This form of treason is occasionally referred to as high treason, which may be distinguished from petty (or petit) treason, which under English law historically applied to “the crime committed by a servant in killing his master, by a wife in killing her husband, or by an ecclesiastic in killing his superior.”
Regardless of the exact definition, we have to be honest with ourselves. If Hillary Clinton had been dumb enough to publicly call for an enemy foreign power to spy on Donald Trump, say, to retrieve his tax returns or something, Trump cultists would be screaming “treason” and “tyranny” from the roof tops.
Heck, Ted Cruz told Republicans to “vote their conscience” and to vote for candidates up and down the ballot who uphold the U.S. Constitution and he was literally labeled a traitor.
Here are some of the reactions to Trump’s latest bloviation on Twitter today:
Based on his comments today, should Donald Trump be arrested on charges of treason and/or other felonies?
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 27, 2016
Donald Trump asking Russia to hack into Clinton’s email is scary, stupid and treason.
— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) July 27, 2016
— Norwood Tea Party (@NorwoodTeaParty) July 27, 2016
*Obama bows to foreign leader*
*Trump invites Russian espionage on American*
GOP: well, i want capital gains taxes to stay low
— Daniel Lin (@DLin71) July 27, 2016
— (((Shining City))) (@shiningcity1776) July 27, 2016
— ♋️ #ExGOP Annie (@bloodless_coup) July 27, 2016
— Harold Itzkowitz (@HaroldItz) July 27, 2016
While Trump worshipers like FOX News’ Stuart Varney are crediting Trump for “stealing the show” from the Democratic National Convention by urging a foreign power to spy on a political opponent (imagine what he might do as president), in reality, it’s not a great day when on the day that the focus should be on the IRS opening up an investigation into the Clinton Crime Family Foundation, social media is abuzz with hashtags like #TrumpTreason, and headlines read “Donald Trump Asks Vladimir Putin to Help Him Win.”