Social Policy & Programs Consulting
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Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
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Treason: Myths And Facts
Sorry, folks. Donald Trump is not a traitor.
October 1, 2019
Politicians, pundits, journalists, and civilians have been slinging the word treason like a white glove to the face since Donald Trump became president. They're wrong. No one in the United States has committed treason since World War II. And it’s impossible to commit it at this time.
Trump accused House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff of treason because Schiff dares to investigate Trump’s crimes. I have zero use for Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a despicable human being. I believe that Donald Trump has committed many crimes. Donald Trump has not committed treason. And neither have Adam Schiff, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pompeo, William Barr, nor anyone else.
Accusations of treason have multiplied since the House of Representatives opened its impeachment investigation. Americans don’t understand treason because we allow our schools to teach civics wrong.
Definition of treason
Our founders committed treason when they signed the Declaration of Independence.
And just eleven years later, they included treason as an unjustifiable crime in their Constitution.
Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution.
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. (Article III. Section 3)
Our founders chose these words carefully.
If they had wanted to say something else, they would have chosen other words. This is the definition we have to use.
The problem hinges on the word "enemy".
After nearly two centuries of legal wrangling, Congress gradually clarified it.
The U.S. Code defines "enemy" as a nation with which we are in a declared or open war.
The Constitution says that only Congress can declare war.
They haven't done that since World War II.
We are not at war with any nation at this time.
We have adversaries, opponents, and antagonists.
Legally, we have no enemies.
So none of us could commit treason now, even if we wanted to.
President’s oath of office
The oath, required by the Constitution, says
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Violating the oath is not treason. It’s not even a crime. It says to the best of my ability.
Apparently, Trump is acting to the best of his ability.
But Trump isn’t off the hook. Treason is a legal concept. Betrayal is more emotional.
The Constitution doesn’t require much of a president, but Americans expect a lot.
We don’t expect our presidents to be perfect, but we do expect them to root for us. We want them to encourage us, to have our best interests at heart. We want them to care what happens to us, and to other people in the world. We expect them to be smart and honest. We want them to read the Constitution and to know how government works.
We want them to do their job.
We don’t want them to hire cabinet secretaries and other public officials whose goal is to destroy the very agencies that they lead. We don't want them to demolish all of the progress we've made in the last sixty years.
Webster’s Dictionary defines betrayal as to be disloyal; to disappoint hopes and expectations; to deceive or mislead.
Donald Trump has certainly done all of those things. That’s why Americans are angry.
Trump’s crimes most likely include violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, soliciting foreign governments to interfere in our elections, abuse of power, witness intimidation, violating immigration laws, kidnapping and abusing immigrant children, and obstructing justice. They are all crimes and they are all impeachable offenses.
That’s enough to keep a few House committees busy.
Trump hasn’t committed treason, but he has most definitely betrayed America and Americans.
Meanwhile, let's keep the rhetoric accurate.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the Declaration of Independence
Read the Constitution
Washington Post: Five Myths About Treason
Cornell University Law School. US Code. Definition of Enemy
CBS News: The Case for Treason
Impeachment: Myths, Facts, and History