Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What Trump Said In Helsinki: Whatever It Is, It Isn’t Treason


I get the sense that the anti Trumpers are going overboard now, treason blah, blah, blah, and are hurting their cause.

They have a good solid criticism of Trump here but by getting extreme they’re diluting the seriousness of the point they have to make and driving sensible people away from it.

Might not the pro Trumpers note how Obama coddled the Iranian regime turned his back on the green revolution protestors who tried to get change going and then made a deal that gave Iran a pathway to a developing a nuclear bomb and argue that that’s worse than what Trump said to and about Putin, noting too that Trump has been in action tougher than Obama towards Russia? 

Just asking.


You may want to review the US definition of Treason. Some of Trump's statements may well contravene the letter and spirit of their legislation governing such maters, such as "Giving aid and comfort" to the US's enemies."    The question of Trump's possible treason turns, I'd say, on whether cyber attacks can be construed as an act of force intended to overthrow the legally elected government of the US.  But that's just me, of


If you consider this text of the crime, albeit without checking the case law:

.... 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....

“giving them aid and comfort” at a minimum modifies “adheres to their enemies”—and without getting into the odd locution, “their enemies,” as though the different states as plenaries have different enemies—to commit the crime, then, at a minimum:

there has to be a legally cognizable war between Russia and the U.S., which probably needs some official act to signal that state of affairs for Russia to be an “enemy” within the terms of the text; 

“aid and comfort” probably has to have some material grounding more than a statement that, paraphrase, “I have no reason not to believe Putin,” (which statement, to add to the difficulty for the argument for treason, Trump has recanted as misspoken, and has reconstructed as, paraphrase, “I meant to say, ‘I have no reason to believe Putin.’”);

how can “aid and comfort” arise in a context of a meeting aimed at improving relations between the two countries with a view to deescalating tensions between them precisely to avert or reduce the possibility of war, either hot or cold?

and how can “aid and comfort” arise in the context of a good faith belief that speaking publicly civilly to Putin is in America’s best interest geopolitically and generally? 

As well there is the great policy unwisdom of plucking out, abstracting and stretching elastic statutory language to cover and, so, criminalize what one is politically opposed to, however deep and fervent that opposition may run. The cant word these days for doing just that is “weaponizing,” making a weapon out of things, here a statutory phrase, not meant for such use, for ideological come political ends.

On the reasoning of this extension of “aid and comfort,” Obama would arguably have been treasonous when he was caught on a hot mike whispering to Medvedev that he should tell Vladimir that he, Obama, would be more flexible after the next elections precisely at a time when NATO was encircling Russia more and more and Russia was cyberically disrupting as much as it could in the U.S. And he might have been treasonous in coddling Iran during the green revolution, in not reacting against the peppering of American ships by Iranian patrol boats and on and on and on. 

The foregoing paragraph doesn’t mean to make these arguments but rather to illustrate the extremes weaponizing “aid and comfort” for political ends can get to.

It occurs to me, too, that “aid and comfort” has to be seen in the context of Trump so far in action quite arguably being tougher on Russia than the previous administration was.

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