Why There's So Much Hype Around The Word "Treason" After Trump & Putin's Presser

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Former CIA Director John Brennan took to Twitter on Monday morning to call Trump's actions at the Helsinki summit "nothing short of treasonous". Brennan is just one of dozens of politicians from either side of the partisan aisle who have spoken out against Trump following his joint press conference with Putin, where he defended Putin over the findings of his own intelligence community. The statements by these politicians have people wondering if Trump actually did commit treason with his Putin presser comments, or if politicians are simply finding ways to express their outrage at his behavior.

Brennan's full tweet condemning Trump's actions reads:

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

And according to the Merriam-Webster twitter account, the top searches on its site were "treason", "abase", "traitor", "collusion", and "presser" that afternoon.

The definition of treason according to Merriam-Webster is as follows: "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 the sovereign's family."

In other words, Brennan is accusing Trump of having participated in any number of acts to overthrow his own government, through his defense of the Russian president.

Both Republicans and Democrats have spoken out against Trump's behavior in Helsinki, though their perspective seems to represent a range of frustration, from those who think he botched an act of diplomacy to those who believe he should be impeached. Even those who had vehemently supported Trump throughout his presidency spoke against him on Monday, with Fox Business host Neil Cavuto calling Trump's behavior “disgusting,” adding, “I’m sorry, it’s the only way I feel. It’s not a right or left thing to me, it’s just wrong.”

From the other side of the political aisle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a few choice words on how he viewed Trump's behavior:

A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: what could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.

Even if Trump had been proven to be treasonous for one reason or another, the following question is, of course, what that means for his presidency. Given that the only way to remove a president from office is to formally impeach him or her, it follows that Congress would have to see bi-partisan support for an impeachment process to even begin.

Here's how impeachment works: a member of the House of Representatives has to accuse the president of an offense. The two biggest and most clear-cut offenses, according to CNBC, are treason, bribery, with a slightly more complex offense being "high crimes and misdemeanors".

Hypothetically, if Trump was accused of treason, the House of Representatives would then take a vote, and if a majority were to vote in favor of impeachment, the process would then be passed on to the Senate, who would act as both the judge and the jury of the president's impeachment process. Two thirds of the Senate would then have to vote in favor of impeachment in order to remove the president from office.

In order to reach a majority in the House of Representatives, though, three Republicans would have to join the Democrats in favor of impeachment. That might seem like a possible outcome, given how many Republicans condemned Trump's behavior Monday, but Esquire notes that the most likely Republicans to do that would be ones who have already announced their plans to retire and therefore don't have to worry about backlash, such as Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

Of course, the country could still be a far way away from even considering impeachment. As for the president himself, he relayed high spirits from his meeting.

He tweeted, "As I said today and many times before, 'I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.' However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!"