Updated November 16, 2020
See Norm Ornstein, Tweet, November 16, 2020:
I have searched for the best word to describe the moral cowardice of Republican elected officials, party officials and opinion leaders, blowing up a transition with a deadly pandemic underway, undermining faith in our election and political system. The word is traitorous.
8:52 AM · Nov 16, 2020·Twitter Web App
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” John Brennan, Twitter, July 16, 2018.
Treason as defined in the U.S. Constitution
“Treason” is defined in Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution as follows:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
The 18th century language of this provision has been taken literally, despite the fact that in the world we live in in 2018 the United States does not declare war against its enemies, and if the provision is interpreted within the 18th century language of its text, it becomes nugatory, i.e., it is a crime which in the modern world it is impossible to commit.
The intention of the Framers of the Constitution was to avoid the political and judicial misuse of the crime of “treason”, limiting its compass to a narrow core meaning.
The question of whether Donald Trump is advancing Russian interests over those of the United States, and accepting Russian President Putin’s statement that Russia didn’t intervene in the 2016 elections, over the unanimous conclusions of his U.S. intelligence agencies, is one element of a question that may ultimately have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court: Do the many actions of Donald Trump which favor Russia and Vladimir Putin, including his refusal to implement the sanctions law passed by overwhelming majorities in Congress, amount to “Treason” within the meaning of the impeachment clause of the Constitution?
Even if Trump’s actions do not amount to “treason” as defined in the Constitution, they may certainly constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which he may be impeached.
“Betrayal of Country” and the word “treason” in everyday context
Whatever the constitutional definition of “treason”, we should not allow a technical legal definition to prevent us from using in our political discourse a concept which has a common meaning in everyday language and in the languages of other countries.
The core concept is “betrayal of country”.
The German word for that is “Verrat”.
See Hubert Wetzel, “Trumps dreifacher Verrat,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 17 Juli 2018.
“Der US-Präsident hat bei seinem Treffen mit Putin Amerikas Demokratie, die Sicherheitskräfte des Landes und den Westen gedemütigt. Das ist bitter. Noch bitterer ist nur das Schweigen in Washington.”
The French word for that is “trahison”.
“Rien de moins qu’un acte de trahison” : la polémique autour des échanges entre Trump et Poutine résumée en quatre actes
“Donald Trump a refusé de condamner Moscou pour l’ingérence dans la campagne présidentielle américaine, provoquant une indignation quasi-générale.”
The Spanish word for that is “traición”.
“Republicanos y demócratas ven grave debilidad; En el Congreso alertan que la actitud de Donald Trump raya con la traición al país,” El Deber (Bolivia)
“El legislador demócrata Jimmy Gomez fue aún más allá y apuntó que el mandatario había llegado a los límites de la “traición”.
“Aliarse con Putin contra los servicios estadounidense de inteligencia es asqueroso; pero no defender a EEUU está al borde de la traición. Todos los estadounidenses deberían estar preocupados,” apuntó.”
All have the common-sense meaning of “betrayal”. And all have a second meaning of “betrayal of country”.
Trump’s “Betrayal of country” with Putin and Russia has been unmistakable, not only in his press conference in Helsinki on July 16, 2018, but in his whole course of conduct with Putin and Russia.
His agreement to sit down with Putin for a one-on-one conversations with no other U.S. official present, except for an interpreter whose job did not entail taking notes of the meeting, was a “betrayal of country”. Trump did not trust U.S. officials to take notes on the meeting, or report on what was discussed to the press and the public.
That was a supreme act of “bad faith” toward the American people. It was a betrayal of his country, putting Putin’s desire for a private and secret conversation above Trump’s obligation to represent the American people, and “to support, uphold, and defend the Constitution of the United States”.
Trump did not defend the interests of the United States in Helsinki.
That, and many other acts of commission and omission since he took office in January, 2017, constitute “betrayal of country”.
Or, in common parlance, “treason”.
The Trenchant Observer