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Here's How the Consitution Actually Defines 'Treason'

September 11, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Sedler, The Conversation

President Trump tweeted “TREASON?” in an apparent reference to an op-ed’s author.


In the furor over the anonymous New York Times op-ed by a Trump administration “senior official,” the word “treason” has been used by a variety of people.

President Trump tweeted “TREASON?” in an apparent reference to the op-ed’s author. Trump’s supporters have likewise used the word in attacks on the author – and the newspaper for printing it.

Trump’s opponents have likewise bandied the word about by saying that the op-ed was not “treasonous.” Instead, they say that Trump himself is guilty of “treason” by trying to obstruct the investigation into the claimed Russian interference in the 2016 election. Earlier this year, Trump opponents also claimed he committed treason at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As a constitutional scholar, I’d like to remind people there is a precise definition of “treason” set forth in the Constitution. None of the recent charges of treason remotely fit that definition. The claims that one side or the other have committed treason are ignorant of the law.

Nothing Worse

Treason is the only crime specifically defined in the Constitution. It is a heinous crime, the worst crime that can be committed by an American citizen. It is a betrayal of the nation and of values embodied in the American constitutional system.

It can be punished by death.

When the framers defined “treason” in Article III, Section 3, they were determined to avoid the use of “treason” as it had been used in English law to punish opponents of the king.

In English law, “treason” meant acts of disloyalty to the king. A person convicted of “treason” was not only executed, but all of his property was “attained” – or confiscated by the government.

This was not the way the crime of treason would operate in the United States, which was founded by those who had rebelled against the British king. The framers of the constitution made sure of that.

Here’s how the framers defined treason:

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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