As Donald Trump’s Russia scandal has turned into arguably the most complex criminal conspiracy in history, one of the key questions has been how to classify the series of unprecedented crimes that have been committed. Four of Trump’s people have already been arrested on various crimes including the ominous sounding “conspiracy against the United States.” But now, for the first time, those investigating the scandal are finally using the word “treason” in relation to the scandal.
Donald Trump and his underlings conspired with a foreign enemy to rig the United States Presidential election in his favor, and once Special Counsel Robert Mueller is finished proving it beyond any doubt, a lot of people are going to conclude that this was straight up treason. However, that word carries a lot of baggage with it. For one thing, it has a narrow yet vaguely defined legal meaning. It’s also considered by many to be the most severe crime of all. So even those who see it as treason have had to be careful about using that word. However, that appears to be rapidly changing.
Congressman Eric Swalwell is a prominent member of the House Intelligence Committee, which makes him a key investigator in the Trump-Russia scandal. After the news broke this week that Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort continued to conspire with the Russians after he was placed under house arrest, Swalwell didn’t mince words. He tweeted “At this point, let’s just call this what it is, treason.”
To be clear, Swalwell is accusing Paul Manafort of treason, and not Donald Trump. But the first step in proving Trump guilty of treason would be to set a baseline by convicting Manafort for treason. And the first step to nailing Manafort for treason is officially using that word in reference to him. Treason charges do not a require a declaration of war (no matter how many Twitter pundits claim otherwise), but rather simply an act of war. If Russian election hacking can be legally defined as an act of war, then Manafort can be convicted of conspiring to commit treason – and so can Trump.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report