Trump asks if intel chair Schiff should face 'arrest for treason'

US president lashes out again at whistle-blower, asks if House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff should be arrested.

    Schiff speaks as acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill [File: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP]
    Schiff speaks as acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill [File: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP]

    US President Donald Trump on Monday escalated his attacks against the politician leading the impeachment inquiry against him, suggesting that Democrat Representative Adam Schiff be arrested for "treason".

    The comment is likely to inflame criticism of Trump's handling of the scandal engulfing his presidency, stemming from a telephone call in which Trump asked Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son.

    The telephone call was included in an intelligence officer's whistle-blower complaint that raised concerns about whether the president sought to leverage US aid to Ukraine for political favour.

    "Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?" Trump tweeted.

    Trump appeared to reference statements made by Schiff during a hearing held by the House Intelligence Committee, of which the latter is the chairman. Schiff said his remarks parodied Trump's comments on the call with Zelensky. 

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    Schiff did not immediately respond to Trump's comments on Monday.

    Treason is extremely narrowly defined, both in the country's founding document and in federal law.

    The Constitution states: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."

    Note the word "only”. Treason occurs when a US citizen, or a non-citizen on US territory, wages war against the country or provides material support, not just sympathy, to a declared enemy of the US.

    'Serious concerns' for whistle-blower's safety

    The Republican president has increasingly lashed out at political opponents since House Democrats announced on Tuesday they would pursue an impeachment inquiry.

    He likened the whistle-blower and White House officials who gave information to the whistle-blower to spies and suggested they committed treason. On Monday, he continued his attacks against the "whistle-blower" calling the individual and the complaint "fake".  

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    The inspector general for the director of national intelligence deemed the whistle-blower complaint credible and urgent, while the top US intelligence officer said the whistle-blower acted in good faith.

    On Saturday, the whistle-blower's legal team sent a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, expressing their "serious concerns" for the safety of their client after Trump's comments likening the individual who gave the whistle-blower information to a "spy".

    The letter, which was made public on Sunday, also said that "certain individuals" had put out a $50,000 award for information relating to the whistle-blower's identity.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies