- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2019

President Trump on Friday repeatedly suggested that a lawyer representing the intelligence community whistleblower who sparked impeachment proceedings should be sued “for treason.”

Mr. Trump made the remark to reporters outside the White House following revelations about comments whistleblower attorney Mark S. Zaid had made about the president in 2017.

“The whistleblower is a disgrace to our country. A disgrace,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “And his lawyer, who said the worst things possible two years ago, he should be sued. And maybe for treason. Maybe for treason, but he should be sued.”

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Mr. Zaid responded to the president’s attack on Twitter while sharing an article from last year in which he argued against claims that Mr. Trump is a traitor.

“Ironically, I defended - as a matter of law - the President from charges his actions were treasonous,” Mr. Zaid noted.

Mr. Zaid, a D.C.-based attorney specializing in whistleblower protections, announced in September that he was representing an unnamed member of the U.S. intelligence community who triggered impeachment proceedings by flagging a presidential phone call between Mr. Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. The House of Representatives has since held several closed-door hearings with witnesses and is slated to begin holding open hearings next week.

Reports earlier in the week revealed that Mr. Zaid had posted on Twitter in 2017 about removing Mr. Trump from the White House, providing the president and his supporters with a fresh angle for attacking the impeachment proceedings that the lawyer’s client triggered.

In a series of old tweets resurfaced and amplified by critics of the impeachment proceedings, Mr. Zaid referred to Mr. Trump as the worst presidential candidate in modern history and predicted he would not serve a full term in office. He subsequently defended his remarks in a statement Wednesday that they were “reflective and repeated the sentiments of millions of people.”

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that the whistleblower’s attorney be sued for treason – a criminal offense that potentially carries the death penalty – was flatly rejected by other legal professionals, meanwhile.

Supreme Court lawyer Neal Katyal and free speech attorney Adam Steinbaugh are among law experts on Twitter who concluded in separate but similarly worded tweets that a person cannot be sued for treason.

Treason is essentially defined under the U.S Constitution as either levying war against the U.S. or adhering to or aiding its enemies, though rarely have related charges ever been brought. Mr. Trump has used the term, loosely, however, applying it in the past to targets including former President Barack Obama and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat, among others.

“When everyone is throwing around the word treason, it usually falls in one of several categories,” Mr. Zaid said in the 2018 article he tweeted Friday. “They’re usually citing it for a partisan reason, because they want to smear that person, or they don’t understand what the word means — or some combination of the two.”

“When it’s meaningful, it does send a message,” Mr. Zaid said about treason. “But we need to use that message appropriately and carefully.”

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