Donald Trump

Everyone Dares Call It Treason

Both the president and his critics casually deploy the once-incendiary charge to discredit their opponents.


Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who is notionally challenging Donald Trump for the Republican Party's 2020 presidential nomination, last week claimed Trump is guilty of "treason, pure and simple." He added that "the penalty for treason under the U.S. Code is death."

Weld thus joined a long list of commentators and politicians in both major parties, including Trump himself, who casually tar their political opponents as traitors. Often, like Weld, they mean this literally, in which case they are demonstrably wrong. Sometimes they are just suggesting that the other side is disloyal and unpatriotic, in which case they are merely contributing to a poisonous political atmosphere that is incapable of supporting rational debate.

The basis for Weld's claim is the allegation that Trump, for crass political reasons, pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender to oppose Trump as the Democratic nominee in next year's election, by delaying military aid that Congress had approved. Such conduct would be an abuse of presidential power as well as an illegal usurpation of the legislative branch's spending authority.

Contrary to Weld, however, Trump's alleged machinations do not qualify as treason. The legal definition requires waging war against the United States or "adher[ing]" to its enemies—defined as nations or organizations that are at war with the U.S.—by giving them "aid and comfort." Ukraine is not at war with the United States, and in any event Trump's alleged aim was not to help Ukraine but to help himself by getting its government to dig up dirt on a man who wants to take his job.

Weld, who as a former U.S. attorney certainly should know better, also erroneously claimed that death is "the only penalty" for treason. The possible penalties include prison and fines as well as execution.

Former White House adviser Stephen Bannon was likewise wrong when he said that meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump's 2016 opponent, constituted treason. The president also has been falsely accused of treason by counterterrorism expert Malcolm Nance, political consultant Rick Wilson, former CIA Director John Brennan, former State Department official John Shattuck, historian Jon Meacham, and New York Times columnist Charles Blow, to name a few.

Trump himself, of course, is not shy about deploying the T-word. In his view, the administration officials who communicated their concerns about his July 25 telephone conversation with Zelenskiy thereby committed treason.

The argument that Trump obstructed justice when he tried to stop or limit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump said, was an "illegal and treasonous attack on our Country." The Mueller investigation itself was a "Phony & Treasonous Hoax" involving "treasonous acts," according to the president.

When The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed piece by an administration official who was critical of the president, that was also "treason" in Trump's mind. So was Democratic opposition to his immigration policies.

Even failing to applaud Trump during his State of the Union address might qualify as treason, he suggested last year. "Somebody said 'treasonous,'" he said during a visit to Cincinnati. "I mean, yeah, I guess, why not?…They certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."

Needless to say (I hope), a lack of enthusiasm for the president is not the same as a lack of love for "our country." Nor is criticizing U.S. policies the same as hating the United States, notwithstanding the president's love-it-or-leave-it attitude.

Frederick Douglass, the classical liberal abolitionist whom Trump claims to admire, argued that "the best friend of a nation is he who most faithfully rebukes her for her sins—and he her worst enemy, who, under the specious and popular garb of patriotism, seeks to excuse, palliate, and defend them." Nowadays both the president and his opponents routinely cloak their diametrically opposed agendas in that specious garb.

© Copyright 2019 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. “Shit! The American people don’t all think investigating Democrat corruption is a betrayal of the country. It’s actually backfiring!
    Quick – pump out a bunch of articles both-sidesing treason accusations!”
    -Reason’s handlers

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      1. Treason!!

        1. I was going to go with racism. Could be that and treason.

    2. I used to love coming here to hear ideas about libertarianism. I still do, but mostly from commenters. I mostly come for articles like this, in which golden boy Weld makes a fool of himself, Welch, and the beltway libertopians.

      The Reason clown show rolls on… Surely you’ll get the orange man today!

      1. Oh, come on, you guys on Team Trump can still get all your crazy bullshit in the comments section. Who reads the articles anyway? What a snowflake you “Libertarians” are.

        1. So boring and awful.

        2. “”What a snowflake you “Libertarians” are.”‘

          I don’t recall any libertarians crying when Hillary lost.

    3. +10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000


    4. Progressivism is just another flavor of Marxism. Hence all progressives are traitors be default. They are also incapable of patriotism. So any accusations against Trump, or anyone else are utter bullshit.

      It’s time to do something about them. We need a plan to force them out. America won’t survive their continued treason and sedition.

      1. Correction:
        Marxism is just another flavor of progressivism.
        Progressivism also includes theocracy (Islamism presently), though it is a different branch than the more commonly known socialisms (Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Democratic Socialism, Social Democracy)

    5. Nailed it, thank you.

  2. With apologies to Leslie Nielsen, Weld looks a lot like Leslie Nielsen.

    1. Leslie Neilson’s stunt double.

      1. Leslie Nielsen’s stunt double after three consecutive days and nights of hard drinking.

        1. and a lobotomy.

      2. Not James Arness? Weld noticed strong Dem demand for players willing to screech “treason,” and screeched it. That the Dem Duce struggles to ignore it suggests the strategy sufficed to drain support from Demotopia toward Wily Old Weld.

    2. don’t call me Shirley.

    3. “”Weld looks a lot like Leslie Nielsen.””

      Looks like Enrico Palazzo

      1. looks more like a major league umpire

      2. Enrico



        One of the funniest moments in any movie ever, according to my memory

  3. US politics never was incendiary before Trump’s hairdo committed visual violence on Democrats! It’s all Trumps fault! If we just impeach and remove Trump from office and elect Warren, the world will become filled with kittens, unicorns, and rainbows again, like it used to be!

  4. On this,Weld has beclowned himself. He was running against Hillary, too, but somehow she got praise. Trump (or the fact of him) makes everyone an idiot.

  5. Wait, no mention of using the apparatus of state to spy on opposing party presidential candidates? Or asking foreign diplomats to infiltrate and spy on opposition campaigns? Or paying intermediaries to get “manufactured” dirt on political opponents from foreign state intelligence agencies?

    Oh, yeah…. I suppose the premise was things that have been called treason by public figures in the mainstream press. So, yeah. Carry on….

    Oh, you forgot “Retweeting some quote by some baptist preacher nobody ever heard of predicting civil war.” ‘Cause that was one of the latest.

  6. We do live in weird times…

    The Attorney General in New York is elected. The current AG ran for office on a platform of “If elected I will use my office to investigate and prosecute the friends and family of the President of the United States”.

    Democrats using the power of the state to attack political rivals has become so commonplace that nobody even seems to think there’s a problem with this.

    There was a time when investigating a person rather than a crime was considered misconduct for a prosecutor or the police. Now we consider abuse of office for political purposes so commonplace that it isn’t even worthy of a news story when probably the most powerful AG in the nation promises nothing other than abusing the power of her office for political purposes.

    1. Gosh Cyto, those are just right wing talking points backed by facts and reason… Why would *checks notes* Reason bring that up?

    2. That AG plotting her path to the White House?
      That AG was me!

  7. I was going to suggest an update to Godwin’s Law: the first person to mention “treason” in a debate automatically loses. But then I realized that no one pays attention to Godwin’s original law anymore.

    1. I’m not sure “traitor” is worse than “Nazi”, maybe we can just start calling people child molesters. I don’t know where we go with that once the NAMBLA folks align with the transgendered folks and insist we accept it as merely an alternative lifestyle.

      1. “…maybe we can just start calling people child molesters…”

        What do you mean, START calling people child molesters? I see it on these pages right here just about every day! Post a comment that conservatives and-or Trump adorers don’t like, even if the thought is factual or supported by facts, and the response is, “Yes, but you diddle kids! Or, yes, but you eat shit!” Ad hominem endlessly… If I didn’t know better, I’d think some Reason comments really are NOT fact-and-logic-using geniuses (sneer)!

        1. You’re as dumb as you are crazy. The one person called a pedo posted KP and then admitted it dumbass. Why are you so eager to protect him?

          1. Because I am here to share humor (real humor, not name-calling) and IDEAS about liberty! Einstein presents a long and detailed theory of relativity, and the low-brows say, “Oh, yeah, sure, but Einstein treats his wife like shit, so his theory can’t hold water”. (Einstein really did actually treat his wife like shit, by the way). Are we here to discuss ideas, or are we here to insult each other?

            Critical question for YOU: If I can find a certified child molester, and get him (or her) to post here, and say, “Donald Trump is a God-sent Savior of Humanity”, then… Since this was said by a certified child molester… Will you then finally disavow your tendency to be a Trump lap-dog? Because THAT is where YOUR type of “logic” would lead us to!

            1. Because I am here to share humor (real humor

              When does that start?

              1. As soon as you get your gnarly ass off of these threads!

                1. Squirrely, you’re not funny. You come off as a raving idiot. Annoying, not amusing. It’s even less funny that you are defending Buttplug, after he ADMITTED he posted VP links here.

                  But I suppose child Orin doesn’t borrow a pen idiot wacko like you. Not surprising in the least.

                  1. I never defended Buttplug for watching or posting kiddie porn. I defend SOME of the ideas that he posts… Such as the idea that “Orange Man Bad” is true, and could even be amped up to “Orange Man Evil”, and STILL be true!

                    The REAL problem I have here is, morons like you are all about attacking people, not ideas! I’ll give you a clue: Buttplug breathes oxygen! You gonna stop breathing oxygen, now, because it must be a BAD idea, since Buttplug does it? Just HOW LOW does your stupid go?

                    1. No, the real problem seems to be that you’re in the running to take Dumbfuck Hihnsano’s place as most dementia-addled poster on the board.

                    2. Ad hominem all day long! I am going to ignore the Great and Profound ideas that you just posted… Did you stay up all night to think of that?… Because your hairstyle sucks, and the way your shoes are tied, makes you look like a klutz!

                    3. All the shit-eating appears to have degenerated what’s left of your lucidity. Perhaps a relocation to San Francisco would be more your speed?

                2. So, never?

            2. Nothing you say is funny. All you do is thread shit.

              1. Now THAT was a funny comment! Why are you wasting your time here? You could be a stand-up comedian! Get PAID for it!!!

                1. He wasn’t trying to be funny. And your response is witless and stupid. Which is typical of you.

                  Your latest commentary effort is both undeserved and unwarranted, Did you know that?

                  1. “Your latest commentary effort is both undeserved and unwarranted…”

                    On the Sacred and Holy Words of Shitsy on High? Appeal to authority? Do you ever DO facts and logic?

      2. Why would the North American Marlon Brandon Look Alike (NAMBLA) organization side with the transgenders?

        1. I have spent years and years watching my diet and exercise, and getting plastic surgery, to look like Marlon Brandon, and I’ll be DAMNED if my version of NAMBLA gets polluted and diluted by the wannabes that join the OTHER NAMBLA!!!

          Sounds like a trademark lawsuit coming right up!

          1. That was a South Park bit. Your attempt at pulling that off failed badly. You are not funny. Much like Bruno Kirby’s character in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’.

            Your attempts at humor are cringeworthy. As are you. Just stop. In fact, I suggest suicide.

            Best thing for you really, your commentary is going nowhere.

            1. “I suggest suicide.”

              Are you related to Satan? Read this book:
              Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Paperback – March 25, 2009
              by M. Scott Peck

    2. Naw. Let the voters decide.

      Voters in states have decided that Trump is NOT a traitor, no matter what the traitors in the media say. Voters will clearly elect Trump as the non-traitor for a second term.

    3. You can’t use Godwin’s Law when all the discussions are about an actual Hitler, which they have been since 2016.

      1. Ding ding! We have a winner!!

  8. Politics is more full of wacko clowns that have no idea of the law everyday. And to think, we elect these idiots.

    1. The ones you elect are better than the ones you don’t. Reason used to care about bureaucratic overreach and corruption, then came Trump.

      1. reason sure did order a big ‘ol plate of TDS.

        Their bellies are full of TDS and they continue to eat.

        1. chinese food joke in there…

    2. and to think, they’re mostly lawyers.

  9. It’s as if words don’t mean anything anymore.

    1. I wish I knew what you were trying to say.

      1. I think what sarcasmic is saying might be… “NAZI” “treason” etc. have lost meaning. Every time somebody accidentally steps on my toes, it is a “literal genocide”. Literal and genocide no longer mean what they used to mean, after being abused in this way.

      2. Sorry, Juice, it slowly dawned on me that your comment may have been wry humor… Since words have lost all meaning, you can’t see what sarcasmic is saying!!!

        Oooops, now I ruined the joke by explaining it!!!

        But wait! Maybe not! My joke-ruining words had no meaning, either, so NO, not all is lost just yet!

  10. It’s too bad you GOPers couldn’t get this kind of support for impeaching Bill Clinton after he lied in court and fucked his intern. Maybe you suck at this?

    In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 46 percent of voters said Congress should begin impeachment proceedings vs. 43 percent who said they should not. Eleven percent had no opinion. That support represented a 3-point bump from last week, when voters were evenly split.

    #The Walls Are Closing In
    #It’S Mueller Time

    1. Still terrible. No improvement ever.

    2. I thought the majority of the American public wanted Trump out of office already. Oh well.

      1. It’s a tie, Brian.

        But don’t worry… it won’t matter what the unwashed public thinks. It matters what his suckups and weird cultists in the Senate think and there’s no way those guys are giving up their cushy job. Oh well… nothing they do affects rich elitists on California like me that think Anything east of Burning Man and west of Nashville isn’t worth saving.

  11. Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld….

    Speaking of traitor…to the Democrat Party!

  12. Jacob, after what I’ve seen and read about the Democrat party and their antics since Trump starting with Obama acting like a ‘facia di culo’ during the transition to Russia and now this impeachment nonsense, it’s not a stretch to assert the Democrats are the ones who are acting with treachery.

    1. Maxine Waters says Trump deserves worse than impeachment: Needs ‘solitary confinement’

      While Lefty fundamental include usurping the US Constitution and remaking the USA into a Socialist shithole, many Lefties have mental illness and an utter lack of knowledge how the law works.

      Lefty lunatic Maxine Waters is demanding that Trump be impeached AND kept in solitary confinement.

      She is the 1%. Lunatic 1%.

      1. Wanna be judge and jury. But not power mad or anything.

      2. Maxine Waters should be put to death.

        1. Ahh, the tolerant Right.

  13. >>>Weld, who as a former U.S. attorney certainly should know better

    continued use of this knucklehead as a source is on you guys.

    1. reason and the Lefty media Propagandists dont have any good sources, so they use Weld.

  14. The only thing dumber than treason being a crime is treason being a capital crime.

    1. hugh cannot think of a good reason why the Founding Fathers would specifically list a crime like treason in the US Constitution.

  15. hugh cannot think of a good reason why the Founding Fathers would specifically list a crime like treason in the US Constitution.

  16. Asking for help to expose corruption hardly seems “treasonous”.

  17. A preemptive BOTH SIDES if there ever was one.

    Worried about what the IG and Barr investigations are going to describe Jacob?

    1. For the author, and alot of Reason authors lately, it’s really hard being honorable in an age of scoundrels.

      While there are no saints, and corruption exists on both sides, there is simply NO moral equivalence between Republicans and the Left.

  18. Sounds like Trump, or at least someone in his orbit FINALLY read Alinsky, too. That only gave the far left a 50 year head start on debasing the conversation.

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