President Trump raised the specter of treason in denouncing an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times purportedly written by a senior administration official who portrayed a White House in disarray and described an effort by some insiders to check the president's impulses.
But what amounts to treason?
Treason is a major crime, one that has cursed the name of traitors since the nation's beginning. In the U.S. Constitution, the framers appreciated the seriousness of an allegation of treason enough to spell out what it specifically included and what would be needed to convict someone of treason.
Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution says: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."
Writing an op-ed that might undermine a government certainly does not qualify as "levying war" against the United States, unless it leads to the assembling of a force to overthrow the government by violent means.
While some might want to argue that painting a negative picture of the government provides a form of comfort to the nation's enemies, it does not meet the higher standard that would be applied in a case of treason.
Based on past convictions of treason, aid and comfort includes acts like working for or serving in an enemy army, sheltering a spy and spreading enemy propaganda during time of war.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., a Trump supporter, said the op-ed did not qualify as treason under the law but was a betrayal nonetheless.
"This is not treason under the Constitution," Graham said on CNN. "This is not a treasonous act against the nation. This is a disloyal and cowardly act against the president."
The last person convicted of treason in the United States was Tomoya Kawakita in 1952.
Kawakita was born in California in 1921 and went to Japan in 1939 with his father. He was there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and stayed. He registered as a Japanese national without renouncing his U.S. citizenship. He did not serve in the Japanese military, working instead as an interpreter at a mining and metal-processing plant that used American prisoners of war for labor. Kawakita took part in the abuse of the POWs there.
After the war, Kawakita returned to Los Angeles, where one of his victims spotted him and alerted the FBI. Kawakita was tried, convicted of treason and sentenced to death. President Dwight Eisenhower commuted his sentence to life in prison in 1953. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy released Kawakita on the condition that he return to Japan and never attempt to re-enter the United States. There are unconfirmed reports that Kawakita died sometime in the 1990s.
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953, were convicted of espionage for spying for the Soviet Union, not treason.