What Does It Take To Be Guilty Of Treason?
At some point in time, within every four years of a presidential election, someone always wants to charge the sitting president with treason.
Tempting as that is for some, I think we might want to do a little exploration into exactly what treason is, and whether the punishment fits the crime, or should I say alleged crime.
The loose definition of treason is “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” In other words — selling out America for money, or some personal ideology or cause.
Terms such as, “high crimes and misdemeanors” are also often included.
In all of US history there have been less than 30 actual cases of treason.
There Are Two Definitions of Treason
The U.S. Code, is the official compilation of all general and permanent federal laws enacted by the U.S. Congress through the legislative process. Such as Social Security, and other social programs.
The US Code definition of treason states:
"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."
Treason is defined in Article III, Section 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. 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."
If, or when, a president is convicted in court of treason or high crimes and misdemeanors it requires a full housecleaning. The president, vice president, and all of their offices would be removed. I guess it’s guilt by association.
A US president has never been impeached for treason. We have had two presidents impeached — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
Some Famous Cases of Treason
There have been some pretty high profile treason cases not involving presidents. Aaron Burr, who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, wanted all states west of the Mississippi to secede from the union.
Other notables were “Axis Sally” whose real name was Mildred E. Gillars who broadcast propaganda favoring the Nazis in WWII.
You might remember the name Tokyo Rose, or Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino. She was an American who found herself stranded in Japan at the beginning of WWII.
She was imprisoned for broadcasting propaganda for the Japanese. She was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford.
Some Final Thoughts
There are some people who believe that Jane Fonda (Viet Nam War) and more recently Edward Snowden of NSA notoriety should be considered for what some perceive as treasonous acts.
What’s your opinion? Anyone out there you believe should be charged with treason? Comment below.