Treason 101

Dear President Trump,

I suppose one plus of your presidency is that we now have so very many reasons to want (and need) to revisit old civics and government lessons. For example, reading Derek Hawkins’s history lesson on treason this morning in the WP I learned that the constitution framers were careful to delineate treason extremely narrowly and to require a high burden of proof. Hawkins noted they put these safeguards in place because they didn’t want charges of treason used as a weapon to quash free speech, particularly that which might be critical of leadership.

Here’s the definition of treason from Article III of 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.”

In the essay Hawkins’s says you were wrong to say those who didn’t clap for you during your State of the Union address were behaving treasonously. Check. Basically, I think you were trying out a new dog whistle by putting the words “treason” and “Democrats” out into the air space together. You were also engaging in the exact sort of abuse the framers were trying to avoid (e.g., using the accusation to try to undermine one’s political opponents).

Hawkins also said that the various accusations of treason against people in your campaign are incorrect. He failed, however, to address Flynn’s assurances to Kislyak that he and Putin need not worry about the sanctions President Obama imposed on Russia in response to their election meddling because you would fix things up for them once you took office. This sure seems to have run afoul of the “…in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” section of the treason definition. There are also the gifts to Putin you deliver every day by eroding our democratic principles and undermining the integrity of the government itself. I’d say that’s the ultimate in “aid and comfort” to a regime that seems hell bent on taking down the West and reshaping the geopolitical landscape as a playground for autocrats and their oligarchs.

So if I were you, I would not get too comfy-cozy with anyone’s assurance that you have not committed treason. The jury is still out, but from here, it’s not looking good.

May we be safe from false equivalencies.
May we be happy to watch how we use loaded words.
May we have leaders who exercise their strength in healthy ways.
May we have leaders who value integrity.

Tracy Simpson

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