Democrats jeer Trump about 'treason' charge

Congressional Democrats are reacting with outrage to President Trump’s accusation they were “treasonous” and “un-American” for failing to applaud during his State of the Union speech.

“The president once again is making a simple but scary mistake here,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said on CNN on Tuesday morning. “He is not the state. Cheering for our president is not the same as being a patriotic and loyal American. In fact, there’s this thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution that protects the rights of all of us as citizens to either cheer or applaud the president when we agree with him or to not applaud when we have differing priorities. He simply doesn’t get that.”

“He’s not above the law,” Coons added. “And failure to cheer him when he thinks we should is not only not treasonous, some of us would argue it’s patriotic.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., suggested, mockingly, that Trump was taking his views about patriotism from Kim Jong Un.

“Maybe he’s been watching too much North Korean television where everybody in the North Korean assembly stands up and claps together whenever the Dear Leader says something,” Whitehouse said on CNN.

President Trump delivers remarks on tax policy during a visit to the Sheffer Corp. in Ohio on Monday. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
President Trump delivers remarks on tax policy during a visit to the Sheffer Corp. in Ohio on Monday. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

During an event promoting tax reform in Blue Ash, Ohio, on Monday, Trump criticized Democrats who didn’t clap during his Jan. 30 speech to Congress.

“They would rather see Trump do badly, OK, than Trump do well,” Trump recalled. “You’re up there, you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild, they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country, and you’ve got the other side — even on positive news, really positive news — they were like death. And un-American. Un-American.”

Trump then pointed to the back of the room of the Ohio factory where he was speaking.

“Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ Yeah, I guess, why not?” the president said to laughter from the crowd. “Can we call that treason? Why not?”

Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesperson, later told NBC News that Trump was being “tongue in cheek” when he accused the Democrats of “treason.”

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., didn’t find the humor in Trump’s comments.

“I didn’t serve 24 years in the uniform of this country to be called treasonous for simply disagreeing with your disastrous policies, Mr. President,” Walz tweeted.

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a U.S. Army veteran who lost both legs in combat, came up with a nickname for President Trump — “Cadet Bone Spurs.” Trump received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, including one for bone spurs in his heels.

“We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy,” Duckworth tweeted. “I swore an oath — in the military and in the Senate — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.”

Duckworth then shared a quote from Republican President Theodore Roosevelt: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic or servile, but is morally treasonous to the American public.”

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Roosevelt, Duckworth added, was a president “who earned the applause he received.”

“The great political issue now facing our country is not Democrat vs. Republican or progressive vs. conservative. It’s much deeper than that. It’s about democracy vs. authoritarianism,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement.

“Every Member of Congress, indeed every American, who cares about our democracy should be profoundly concerned when @realDonaldTrump suggests those who don’t agree with him are ‘treasonous’ or ’unAmerican,’” Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., tweeted. “We take an oath to a constitution — not a man.”

In a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., urged fellow GOP members to “defend our colleagues from such a vile remark.”

“This conduct in an American president simply is not normal,” Flake said. “Treason is not a punchline, Mr. President.”

In an interview CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden said he “marvels” at some of Trump’s comments, like his casual use of “treason.”

Cuomo noted that the White House says the president’s remark was “clearly” tongue-in-cheek, and that “Democrats can’t take a joke.”

“Well, let me tell you,” Biden replied. “He’s a joke.”

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