Donald Trump conspicuously failed to deny former FBI officials involved in probes into his presidential campaign should be put to death for what he describes as treason.
The US president listed former FBI directors James Comey and Andrew McCabe, as well as agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, when asked who he was accusing of treason.
“Sir, the constitution says treason is punishable by death. You've accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?” NBC journalist Peter Alexander asked Mr Trump during a White House event on Thursday.
“Well I think a number of people, and I think what (sic) you look is that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person,” Mr Trump responded.
“If you look at Comey, if you look at McCabe, if you look at probably people higher than that. If you look at Strzok, if you look at his lover Lisa Page, his wonderful lover.
“The two lovers they talked openly. You know they didn’t use their private server because they didn’t want to get caught, so they used the government server. That was not a good move.”
Mr Trump has long railed against the four officials he falsely accused of treason.
The president’s 2017 firing of Mr Comey, who he then blamed for "this Russia thing", led to the appointment of both Mr McCabe as FBI chief and the launch of Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The president names names when I asked him who, specifically, he’s accusing of treason, which can be punishable by death. https://t.co/FuDMcFZvH7— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander)May 23, 2019
It was not clear who “people higher than” Mr Comey was a reference to, but in the previous administration only the attorney general and former president Barack Obama would rank as more senior.
Mr Strzok and Ms Page have long been subject of Republican suspicions after it emerged the pair, who were in an extramarital affair while investigating Mr Trump, exchanged texts disparaging of the then presidential candidate.
Mr Mueller later removed Mr Strzok from his team once the texts emerged, including one in which Mr Strzok told Ms Page the probe was an “insurance policy” in case Mr Trump won.
Experts have said Mr Trump’s treason accusations are baseless, since the founders narrowly defined the crime in the US constitution as “levying war” against the US or “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort”.
The White House has been contacted for comment.