Fact check: Donald Trump Jr. did NOT commit treason — Here’s why

As TK Whiteman reported on Tuesday, liberals are now claiming that Donald Trump, Jr., committed treason or treasonous acts against the United States when he met with a Russian attorney.  The Daily Caller observed that “numerous Democratic leaders such as Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton and others have leveled descriptions of Trump Jr.’s actions as ‘treason‘ and ‘treasonous.‘”  But the fact is that Trump did not commit treason, as several outlets have reported.

Not by a long shot…

According to the Daily Caller:

The U.S. Constitution specifically defines the crime of “treason” as a crime that can only take place during acts or times of war. Trump Jr.’s actions do not legally qualify as treason based on this specific constitutional definition.

The Daily Caller’s fact check goes on to explain:

The crime of “treason” is the only crime specifically defined by the U.S. Constitution.

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution states: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

The operative phrase here is “Treason… shall consist only in levying war against [the U.S.].” As cold as U.S.-Russia ties have been, Russia is not legally an “enem[y]” for the simple reason that the U.S. isn’t at war with Russia. The U.S. and Russia diplomatically recognize each other and have active treaties and pacts.

Given that the U.S. is not in a state of war with Russia and that Trump Jr. was also not colluding to wage an armed insurrection against the U.S., his actions – from what’s been made by public by Trump Jr. and various media outlets – are not legally “treason” or “treasonous.”

There’s more.

Axios stated:

The phrase “levies war against them, or adheres to their enemies” is a crucial point for the Russia scandal because it limits a treason prosecution to a wartime crime, which law professor Carlson F.W. Larson describes in The Washington Post. Even at the height of the Cold War — an undeclared war — Soviet agents Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage, not treason.

The reliably-liberal Slate also said:

Treason against the United States, as defined in the Constitution, “shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Nobody I spoke to on Tuesday was talking about treason. To the extent there is a credible criminal claim to be made against Trump Jr., it’s likely under campaign finance law.

Writing at the left-wing Vox, Dylan Matthews said:

UC Davis law professor Carlton Larson told me then that there are two broad categories of treason charges: “aid and comfort” prosecutions, and “levying War” prosecutions. The latter is rare, and typically involves someone who’s literally using an army to fight the government of the US or one of the 50 states.

… Obviously, Trump Jr. did not actively conspire to wage a literal war with armies and troops and stuff against the United States … “Aid and comfort” prosecutions are also difficult. The typical defendant is someone like American-born al-Qaeda member Adam Gadahn (the first treason indictment since World War II and its aftermath), or Nazi propagandist Robert Henry Best, or Tomoya Kawakita, a joint US-Japanese citizen who abused American prisoners of war who were forced to do labor at a mining plant he worked at in Japan. What unites these cases is that they concern countries or organizations with which the US was at war, or at least a de facto state of war.

The left-wing Guardian added:

Whatever you do, don’t call it “treason”, warned Fordham law school professor Jed Shugerman, author of the Shugerblog commentary site.

“As a legal matter, it’s irresponsible for anyone to be calling this ‘treason’,” he said. “These terms not only have legal meaning but they also can be part of overplaying a legal or rhetorical hand.”

“Treason” is unusually narrowly defined in the constitution as aiding enemies in wartime, Shugerman said, with the framers, having just fought a revolution, working with acute awareness of the potential explosiveness of the charge.

U.S. Code, Title 18, Part 1 states the penalty for treason:

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.

So are Kaine and others suggesting Trump be killed for doing far less than Hillary Clinton and the Democrats did?  After all, a DNC operative actively sought assistance from the Ukrainian government and the Chinese ambassador requested a private talk. It sure sounds like it.  At the very least, they appear to be pushing the insane left into committing even more acts of violence against those who support the president.

Meanwhile, liberal activists like Linda Sarsour can advocate “jihad” against Trump and leftists can advocate a military coup d’etat and nothing is done.


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Joe Newby

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Joe ran for a city council position in Riverside, Calif., in 1991 and managed successful campaigns for the Idaho state legislature. Co-author of "Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad," Joe wrote for Examiner.com from 2010 until it closed in 2016 and his work has been published at Newsbusters, Spokane Faith and Values and other sites. He now runs the Conservative Firing Line.

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