Investigate Trump, But Hold Off On Claims Of Treason

The information recently released about the meetings between Donald Trump, Jr. and others in the Trump campaign, along with the emails which have been released, show signs of violation of election laws. This is yet another in a long string of meetings which members of the Trump campaign have failed to disclose. This also gives justification for investigations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but the actual significance of this remains unclear considering that the meeting was with a lawyer who now says she never had any information on Clinton.

This opens additional avenues for investigation for both Robert Mueller and Congress. Although Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that Donald Trump was aware of the meeting at today’s press briefing, I would bet that Mueller will be looking into this.

A huge problem with the 24/7 stream of news and constant discussion on social media is the temptation to come to conclusions immediately. We certainly need to wait and see what comes out of the investigations. That said, I have suspected from the start of this affair that Donald Trump has been trying to obstruct the Russia investigation to protect members of his campaign (along with possibly covering up financial improprieties). With Donald, Jr involved (along with Jared Jushner), this certainly raises the stakes.

As Shattered revealed, Hillary Clinton latched onto the Russia story within twenty-four hours of losing the election to place blame for her loss on others. Tim Kaine and other are now raising questions of whether Trump committed treason. Whatever crimes might have been committed by Donald, Jr. and others, treason does not appear to apply. This is discussed further at Axios and Vox. From Vox:

The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was offered incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and that Junior enthusiastically accepted and pursued the offer, is shocking. What Trump Jr. did could very well be a crime under federal campaign finance law.

But some politicians and commentators are raising the possibility that he committed an even graver offense: treason. “We’re now beyond obstruction of justice,” US Sen. and former Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said. “This is moving into perjury, false statements, and even into potentially treason.” Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s White House ethics lawyer, declared on MSNBC that Trump Jr.’s behavior “borders on treason” even before the worst revelations about the incidents came out. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) commented, “If this isn’t treasonous, I’m not sure what is.” According to Merriam-Webster, searches for the definition of “treason” are on the upswing.

This is nonsense. Whatever Trump Jr. did, it’s definitely not treason. Treason is a very specific crime with a definition set forth in the Constitution that Trump Jr’s conduct doesn’t come close to meeting, for one simple reason: The US is not at war with Russia…

What Trump Jr. did was outrageous. But that doesn’t make it treason, and it’s irresponsible to keep throwing the term around willy-nilly.

Of course many Republicans have been guilty in throwing around the term, often with even less justification, when attacking Democrats.

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8 Comments

  1. 1
    Mervin Sonnier says:

    Investigate This: We should concentrate more on Trump's fitness for office, both physically and especially mentally. Is there any way to officially "investigate" this?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    It could be officially investigated under the 25th Amendment. Of course that would be very hard to do as it would require Pence to invoke it, and for two-thirds of each House of Congress to agree if Trump should fight it.

  3. 3
    Joseph Auclair says:

    I have seen it held that an official can be impeached only for something for which a non-official might be indicted.

    Personally, I think that too restrictive, since it would surely be a good idea to fire a president for simple failure to see that the laws are faithfully executed, even in cases where there is no hint of corruption.

    But, anyway . . .

    One can be indicted for treason.

    As to that we have this from Article III.

    Note the "or" crucially present.

    "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, we are not at war with Russia, though the original and enduring point of NATO is to enable and prepare for, as well as discourage the need for, war with Russia.

    But are not Putin and Russia enemies of America, as surely as North Korea, China, and Iran are?

    Does not the Trump administration give him aid and comfort?

    If not, Vlad wasted a whole lot of effort.

    Just asking.

    There will be plenty of other charges available by the time the election of 2018 gives us a House that might be willing to impeach and perhaps a Senate that might be willing to convict.

  4. 4
    Joseph Auclair says:

    Sorry, miswrote.

    Should have written "a person" where I wrote "a non-official".

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    The linked post gets more into the status of Russia and why they may be adversaries but not enemies in the sense as of being in a state of war which is required for charges of treason.

    Regardless of whether Trump gives Russia any aid and comfort, this has all worked out very well for Putin for a few reasons. It is not clear whether Putin’s goal was to actually elect Trump or to cast doubt on the democratic process here (under the assumption that Clinton would ultimately win). Whatever else has happened, doubt certainly has been cast. If he wanted Trump over Clinton, he could see this as a benefit regardless of whether Trump does what he wants. Clinton has a long history of belligerence towards Russia, and it was in Russia’s interests to keep her out of office regardless of whether the alternative was especially friendly to them. Pretty much anyone would be less hawkish than Clinton. Plus Putin had personal stakes on the outcome, objecting to Clinton’s meddling in the Russian election.

    It is not the case that an official can only be impeached for an indictable crime. The Constitution leaves this quite open, and it makes sense that misconduct in the handling of the office (or perhaps in the election to the office) could qualify. Realistically it is a political process which comes down to what a majority of the House will vote for. If it is the case that Trump fired Comey to attempt to keep him from investigating his son, son-in-law, and other members of his campaign and now White House staff, this could be an impeachable offense itself if enough would vote for it. Most likely more will have to come up before impeachment is possible, and there is a good chance more will be exposed as the investigation continues. It is still very early. What really matters is if enough Republicans will go along since removal from office will require bipartisan support even if the Democrats take control of the House.

  6. 6
    Joseph Auclair says:

    Lawyers' conventional wisdom may be that a state of war is required for a charge of treason, but the actual wording does not say that. And CW is subject to change by history. And we are now in the midst of some very relevant history.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    If the Rosenbergs could not be charged with treason for giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, it is doubtful that it will turn out that Trump has done anything which will qualify as treason, even if the criteria is loosened.

  8. 8
    Joseph Auclair says:

    The hubby had it coming, at least.

    They "could not" be charged because too many lawyers nodded and said "they cannot be charged." And that kind of thing changes over time.

    And they both died, all the same.

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