ME has spent most of his retirement from service to the United States studying, thinking, and writing about the country he served.
George W. Bush First
Before considering the case for treason against Donald Trump, I want to draw a comparison to President George W. Bush, somebody who was very disliked by the same, but smaller, segment of American society, including the author. Nevertheless, I don't think very many believe Bush was unpatriotic - just misguided.
Like Trump, Bush's policies led to bad outcomes for America. The recession, the war in Iraq, and a massive debt are just some examples. But not one thing he did even hinted that he was working to the benefit of a foreign power at the expense of America. Not one thing!
Now to Donald Trump
The same can't said of Donald Trump, which is exactly what we are going to explore in the following sections.
What is Treason?
The layman might say something like "aiding and abetting an enemy". Some might add "in a time of war". And they would be right. The legal definition of treason, the one contemplated by the Constitution, Article III, § 3 is:
“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.”
The statute that puts teeth in this constitutional provision is:
"Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
In modern times, few people have been tried for treason - not so from the Korean War and previously. The question is - can it be applied to the actions of Donald Trump before and after he became president?
This is a crucial element, for without hostilities, the statute does not apply. I purposefully changed words from "war" to "hostilities". The reason for this distinction is "war" in the twenty-first century was not in the realm of possibility when the Constitution was created. You didn't really have "low intensity conflict" or "asymmetric war" back then. It is not hard to draw a line from the kind of war the founders knew to those types of conflict popular today because all of them are physical in nature.
But in cyberspace, no shots are fired and no battles waged - in the normal sense. But today, a well conducted cyber attack can bring a nation to its knees or elect a president (which a growing number of Americans think what happened with Donald Trump).
The fact that Russia attacked the United States is without question, if you believe all of our intelligence agencies or the Mueller Report. So what would have to be established in a court of law, if it ever came to that, is "does Russia's cyber attack constitute "Levying War"? It would seem that the answer could very well be YES.
In United States v. Greathouse, a 19th-century U.S. court, working from the Supreme Court precedent set in the treason trial of Arron Burr, concluded that “levying war” doesn’t require participation in “open hostilities.” The court noted that the term “levying war” “includes not just acts which cause war, but also those acts by which war is prosecuted. The court also said "that any force directed at overthrowing the government — whether in whole or in part — or “defeat[ing] the execution and compel[ling] the repeal of the of its public laws” qualified as levying war."
So, does the Russian attack on America's political system constitute "levying war" according to the Greathouse reasoning. In my opinion, there is no question, but you will need to make up your own mind. In the final analysis, for this article, whichever is correct is not material. Why? Because if I am right, outright treason might be involved. If I am wrong, then what I think you will find is that the cumulative effect of Trump's activities vis-á-vis nations normally considered America's enemies, is guilty of "Treason-like" offenses which is a violation of his oath of office, an impeachable offense. I hope everyone understands that even if Trump isn't technically committing treason but just treason-like, it is virtually just as bad. In fact, it might be worse because of the state of uncertainty and division such an outcome leaves America in.
Adhering to Their Enemies, Giving Them Aid and Comfort
Again, the definition of enemies raises thorny legal issues. In Greathouse, "enemies" is defined as:
“‘enemies,’ … according to its settled meaning, at the time the constitution was adopted, applies only to the subjects of a foreign power in a state of open hostility with us.”
So, the question to be settled in a modern court is "does the Russian cyber attack on America constitute "open hostilities"? To me, it is a no-brainer - YES. To you, maybe not. But again, I argue that except for the technical definition, witch could lead to a death penalty for Trump, what difference does it make, pragmatically speaking. Russia attacked America, of that there is no doubt. So did Donald Trump "adhere to Russia" (or North Korea or China since they have done the same thing)?
In Cramer v United States 325 U.S.1 (1945) the Supreme Court noted
"making a speech critical of the government or opposing its measures, profiteering, striking in defense plants or essential work, and the hundred other things which impair our cohesion and diminish our strength” constitute 'aid and comfort.' "
So, does Trump's tweets and policy decisions (such as ignoring North Korea's continued firing of short range missiles) amount to "aid and comfort"?
Maybe one or two instances doesn't amount to Aid and Comfort but what about a pattern established over almost three years of Trump's behavior?
- Would a pattern of siding with Russia over our own intelligence community's assessments constitute "aid and comfort"? In the words of that great stateswoman Sarah Palin - you betcha'.
- Or how about taking sanctions off one of Putin's oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska, owner of Rusal, (against the wishes of Congress, mind you) which allowed him to invest $200 million in an aluminum plant in Kentucky (the home state of Senate Majority Leader (Moscow Mitch) McConnell who has been actively supporting Trump in minimizing Russia's cyber invasion).
- Then there is Trump trying, heatedly, to get the other members of the G7 summit to admit Russia to its ranks again
- Isn't Trump's efforts to try to weaken NATO, the bulwark between Russia and Europe aiding our enemy?
- And a final example is his response to the Muller report - or rather the trashing of the Mueller report and its author after it showed clearly the cyber attack on the United States by Russia
These are just a few the most egregious examples where Trump seemingly sides with our enemy, Russia, who is also an enemy to all of our allies who we supported - until Trump.
The episode where Trump picked up the hashtag #TraitorTrump was his private meeting with Russian dictator and murderer Vladimir Putin. When he walked on stage and looked at Putin when answering a question about Russian interference in out election and said
“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others saying they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia, I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
I think the light went on in many people's mind that that constituted treason because:
- We know from the Muller Report that Russia attacked America using cyber warfare which a fair interpretation would be a hostile act
- Siding with Putin in front of the world as clearly "adhering to Russia and aiding and comforting them" in the face of accusations they attack the country he was elected to lead.
Personally, I can't come to any other reasonable conclusion that he is a traitor and that the House of Representatives should bring such charges against him in articles of impeachment and the Republicans be forced to defend him as the Senate puts him on trial.
Trump Works With Russians to Subvert Ukraine
Recently (Oct 2019) information has been revealed that Donald Trump has been working against American security interests at the behest of Vladimir Putin (in addition to trying to advance his own political interests for which he will probably be impeached).
Months before Trump's infamous July call to the President of Ukraine, he had another call with Putin, a foe of Ukraine who is currently invading that country, and a meeting with staunch Ukraine foe far-right PM of Hungary, Viktor Orbán. On May 3, Trump talked with Putin who went a long way to convince him to ignore his intelligence community's conclusion that it was Russian who attacked America's 2016 election in favor of the long debunked idea that corrupt Ukraine did it. It was in Russia's national interest that Trump hurt Ukraine and against ours. And that is exactly what Trump did when he illegally withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate a fake belief that Ukraine interfered with our election. To me that smacks of treason.
Likewise, on May 13, Trump met with autocrat Viktor Orbán who continued the narrative that it was Ukraine who tried to help Hilary Clinton in the 2016 election, a known Fake News story. The rest is history with Trump's July call to the Ukraine president.
© 2019 Scott Belford
Leslie McCowen from Cape Cod, USA on May 03, 2020:
Trump, Pence and everyone around them get tested for Corona all the time.
Yet, Americans have died, after two, three times being denied a test, due to shortage.
That’s a form of treason, right there. Stealing supplies from state’s is a form of treason.
Having zero oversight on two trillion dollars is a form of treason.
He works for us, yet governs for himself and his friends.
His billionaire friend got 96 mil from the PPP. But Harvard had to return 8 mil?
This comes from Robert Reich, so I assume it’s true:
“America's billionaires grew their wealth by $282,000,000,000 in just 23 days during the lockdown.
That's $12,300,000,000 a day.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to pay the bills. “
And we can’t get enough PPE, and proper testing for everyone?
People have blinders on.
The Robber Barons have finally achieved their ends: America is their playground.
You can bet they get all the testing and treatment THEY need.
We are close to the Cree Prophecy: “only when they have destroyed everything, will they learn that money can’t be eaten”
Trump. The Golden Calf, mafia style.
Nikolas Turustus from Ukraine on May 02, 2020:
Very logical article. Author raises problems of electronic existence and what is American pragmatism
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on January 30, 2020:
Tomorrow will become a day of infamy - the day America became an autocracy with the acquittal of TraitorTrump. It will be a long time before we ever recover our self-respect and have three co-equal branches of government.
RBJ33 on January 29, 2020:
In 2016 there were 230 million registered voters - 58.1% of them actually voted - that spells apathy. Donald J. Trump has been a Snake Oil Salesman his entire adult life In 2016 nearly 63 million people voted for him - 63 million people didn't care if he was dishonest. In 2020 I wonder if those 63 million Snake Oil Salesman supporters will grow in number, or diminish in number. If it stays relatively consistent that leaves 167 million potential anti-Snake Oil Salesman non-supporters who need to shake off their apathetic attitude and vote him GONE.
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on January 28, 2020:
Thanks for reading, Lucille. Yes, it saddens me greatly. Besides spending 20+ years in the Army, I spent 20+ years as a DoD Civil Servant. And to see this kind of circumstances in my long lifetime is beyond depressing.
One thing I do know is this to will pass; although the damage Trump has done will be very long lasting. In the election between Adams and Jefferson was even more acrimonious and almost caused a civil war - and we survived. In the 1800s, there was a major shift to the right and a rise in evangelicalism. That passed. Then, in my life time, as a kid, I remember Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare Republicans. From then was born modern liberalism.
I suspect that, because the Republicans have forsaken their values for Trump, I am not sure they will survive as a party in the next election, or the one after that. They may go the way of the Federalist Party after they jumped off a cliff.
Lucille Uttermohlen from Indiana on January 28, 2020:
Doesn't it just kill you to know that such a blatent Senate cover-up could happen in the country you fought for? Donald Trump redefines the term "slime ball".
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on December 11, 2019:
Thank JC, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. "It's a a duck"
JC Scull on December 11, 2019:
Very good article. I wholeheartedly agree. Trump's Russian connections goes back many years. His actions and rhetoric all lead to Putin in one way or another. As the proverb goes: "If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it's a duck."
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on September 12, 2019:
Thank you as well, RBJ. I appreciate you voting.
RBJ33 on September 12, 2019:
Well said. Well documented. I voted yes.
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on September 02, 2019:
Thank you Shyron
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on September 02, 2019:
Scott, I agree with you that trump committed treason and should be impeached. Loved your article.
George W. Bush also committed treason by going AWAL in time of war.
Blessings my friend always.
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on September 01, 2019:
Thanks Mike, I would agree.
Mike Russo from Placentia California on September 01, 2019:
Scott: Just from the fact that war today is not what is was when the constitution was ratified, begs the question of should there be amendments to the constitution to make it more relevant to our modern technological times.
Asymmetrical and cyber warfare make it difficult for law makers to even understand what prosecuting war means. I would venture to say, most of the older people in congress don't even understand what the internet is about, even at the most basic levels.
I saw the baffled looks on the faces of many congressmen when Mark Zuckerburg was testifying about Cambridge Analytica and the kind of questions that were asked by them. Treason is a tough one to pin on Trump, mainly because of the players involved in our congress. I also think the 2nd amendment is outdated and needs to be updated to fit modern times, but that also is a tough one.
Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on September 01, 2019:
I hated what the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal did, but I don't see where it fits the definition of treason as they weren't giving aid and comfort to an enemy, just the opposite really.
Clearly, that is not the case with Trump and his friends the murderous dictators.
Leslie McCowen from Cape Cod, USA on August 31, 2019:
I think it’s treason, too.
But then, I think GW was also treasonous.
I think 9/11 was done for Greater Israel: Project for a New American Century: i/e New World Order.
That is neither here nor there, as Obama and Pelosi did not agree with my assessment.
But Trump? I think most people can agree he’s given aid and comfort to Vlad (and Prince bone saw.)
If he believes Vlad over American intel....what else can you call it?
And not only our intel, but our allies, who watched it happen in real time.
Not caring that a hostile foreign power stole from an American presidential candidate......
How far gone we are. This used to be something we could all agree on. Not any more.