Hysteria is never a substitute for argument, even when the prey is Donald Trump. This is a caution lost on the hysterics who, try as they might, cannot dispatch the president to the island of lost presidents. So they keep raising the ante of speech and fantasy.
The latest accusation against the Trump administration is treason, a serious crime indeed, and one that some of the unhinged Democrats, locked in the agonies of Trump Derangement Syndrome, are throwing around as if they know what they’re talking about.
Tim Kaine, the distinguished senator from Virginia and Hillary Clinton’s late and lamented running mate, says the latest attempt by The New York Times to persuade us that it has finally found the smoking gun (and it was in the holster of Donald Trump Jr.) puts the case against the president “beyond obstruction of justice. This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason.” Richard Painter, a lawyer who was President George W. Bush’s ethics nanny, says the junior Mr. Trump’s behavior “borders on treasonous.” Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts says “if this isn’t treasonous, I’m not sure what is.”
Such worthies as these, whose learning in the law rivals that of Blackstone, John Marshall and maybe even Algonquin J. Calhoun, need not repair as far as a law library to brush up on the law, but merely consult Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution (available in any almanac) for the definition of treason in criminal prosecution: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them [i.e., the states], or adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
The younger Mr. Trump may be guilty of bad judgment, reckless eagerness to aid his papa, possibly even federal campaign finance law, but he has, so far as anyone knows, not attempted to raise an army against the United States. John Brown was hanged at Harpers Ferry on the eve of the Civil War for trying to organize a slave rebellion, and Aaron Burr was prosecuted, unsuccessfully, in 1807 for conspiring to levy war against the United States and create an independent nation.
Invocation of the word “treason” is nonsense, as any jackleg lawyer or U.S. senator should know. Whatever the younger Mr. Trump did, it could not be treason because the United States was not, and is not, at war with Russia. The Democratic Party at war with the president doesn’t count.
In earlier times, when the politics of the nation were conducted by more serious men and women, given less to hysteria than to the protection of the rule of law, events marched to a solemn cadence. When Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were prosecuted for giving atomic secrets to the old Soviet Union, they were never charged with treason. The United States was in fact at war with the Soviet Union, but it was a cold war not an actual war, and they were convicted of espionage, and duly executed.
The legal definition of “treason” is exact, for good reason, and it excludes giving “aid and comfort” even to a bitter geopolitical rival with which the United States is not at war, i.e., Russia. What Donald Trump Jr., who has no training or experience in relations with other nations, did was unfortunate and even foolish, but it wasn’t within a country mile of treason.