WASHINGTON - For President Donald Trump, the impeachment case being built by Democrats over his alleged effort to recruit foreign help for his reelection effort isn't just a "WITCH HUNT," though he calls it that, too; it's "treason." It isn't just "presidential harassment," though he also makes that charge; it's an invitation to "Civil War."
The president is bringing the rhetorical heavy artillery to the most serious challenge to his presidency in nearly three tumultuous, norm-busting, warp-speed years in office.
Expanding on the lexicon of outrage and victimhood honed during the probe into Russian interference in the last election, Trump is invoking the muskets-and-ramparts idioms of the country's beginnings.
The ratcheting up of his rhetoric is also indicative of Trump's tendency to interpret any criticism of him as an attack on the government, worrying critics and scholars who warn of the dangers posed by his l'état, c'est moi call to arms.
"Charging anyone with treason is a most unusual act in American history. It's an incendiary charge which relates to the ultimate crime: overthrow of the state," said Michael Glennon, an international law professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
In setting out a definition and consequences for treason in the Constitution, including death, the Founders were guarding against the "danger that the charge of treason could be made irresponsibly against political opponents," he said, adding that cavalierly throwing around words like treason and civil war belies their unique meaning in American history.
"I suppose it has an incendiary effect on some supporters, but we are dealing with dynamite here," Glennon said.
Trump has focused his most pointed comments on Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the...