An Ongoing Series On The Meaning Of Words That Trump And The Right Misuse For Political Purposes.
By David Todd McCarty | Wednesday, October 16, 2019
President Trump has bragged in the past that he has the best words and a very good brain that he likes to use to promote himself and his agenda. But the reality is he has a questionable grasp on the English language and regularly misuses words in his attacks on political opponents. Whether he does it knowingly for effect or out of sheer ignorance is immaterial.
Treason is a word that Trump likes to throw around when speaking on anyone he thinks exhibits disloyalty to him, or anyone that he counts as a political enemy. But that’s not a legal definition of the word according to US law, let alone a general definition of what the word means.
Under US law, treason is defined as:
Treason. 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.U.S. Code § 2381
More generally, Merriam-Webster defines the word as, “The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”
While the term sovereign could be interpreted to mean any recognized leader, in America we don’t think or refer to our leaders as sovereign’s because they do not hold absolute power. We do not have royalty and we are not ruled by dictators. We are a democratic republic where everyone is supposed to be answerable to the law.
So when Trump says that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff is committing treason because he is investigating the President for abuse of office, what he’s really trying to say is that Schiff isn’t loyalty to Trump, and therefore someone not loyal to America. But that is exactly the opposite of what the founders intended and in defiance of the law.
Adam Schiff, or the whistleblower, or anyone else that upsets Trump is not guilty of treason simply because they wish to see him driven out of power. That’s just politics, not treason.
On the other hand, if Trump and his associates were found guilty of colluding with an enemy of America, they could potentially be found guilty of treason, but it’s still a very high bar and not a word anyone should be tossing around lightly, especially given that it’s a capital offense.