Republican challenger Joe Walsh says that Donald Trump is a "traitor"

Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford debated impeaching Donald Trump

By Matthew Rozsa

Published October 6, 2019 3:45PM (EDT)

Joe Walsh (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Joe Walsh (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Joe Walsh, a former congressman from Illinois who is challenging President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination, referred to the president as a "traitor" during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

"This president deserves to be impeached," Walsh told CNN anchor Jake Tapper, noting that no representatives from the White House or prominent Republicans were willing to appear on Tapper's show to defend the president's recent conduct. "This president betrayed his country again this week. Would I vote if I were in Congress on the inquiry? There is enough we know now to vote to impeach this president. He stood on the White House lawn this week, Jake, and told two additional foreign governments to interfere in our election. That alone is impeachable. This is a strong term I’m going to use but I’m going to say it on purpose: Donald Trump is a traitor."

Walsh referred to Trump publicly urging China and Ukraine to investigate Biden from the White House lawn last week even as he denied having political motivations for asking Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to investigate Biden during a controversial July 25th phone call. That phone call has since become the subject of two whistleblower complaints, with the first one prompting Democrats in the House of Representatives to begin an impeachment inquiry against the president.

Walsh was joined on Tapper's show by former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, another Republican challenging Trump for the presidential nomination, who disagreed with Walsh's conclusion.

"The nature of a process is to not come to a conclusion at the beginning of it, and for people to just step out and say 'he needs to be impeached' is to actually diminish and discard the very process that's laid out by our founding fathers," Sanford said. "And so I do think we ought to be incremental. Are there very troubling charges out there? Yes. Do they need to be investigated? Yes. But to jump to conclusions and say he needs to be impeached, what he’s done is treasonous, is to say we’re not going through the very process that the Founding Fathers laid out."

Walsh replied, "With all due respect, the president of the United States, and this is not the first time he’s done it, is telling foreign governments to interfere in our election."

Although Walsh is currently one of Trump's harshest high profile critics in the Republican Party, he once had a reputation for being an outspoken advocate of far right causes and beliefs. In the past he suggested that President Barack Obama was a Muslim, claimed that Obama had only been elected because he was a "black man who was articulate," blamed Obama for inciting violence against police and said that he was "grabbing my musket" if Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. He has since apologized for his past animus toward Obama and his support for Trump, explaining to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos when announcing his presidential campaign that "I helped create Trump, and George, that's not an easy thing to say. I went beyond the policy and the idea differences and I got personal and I got hateful. I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa