David Pisarra

President Trump’s administration continues its wild ride. Heaving from side to side with an almost weekly regularity, changes in leadership and a near constant drum beat against the media for their “fake news” and investigative reporting. This administration is an astonishing window into the psyche of America today. I am simultaneously engulfed with the latest scandal, allegations and braying from the bully pulpit of the Oval Office, while experiencing the schadenfreude of seeing our Republic represented in such a vulgar, crass and brash manner.
It’s a testament to our times that a President can be accused of treason, and not only does he admit the action, but his top lawyer, one Rudolph Giuliani, goes on CNN to admit it. I note that while the President admits he made the call, and asked the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden, the momentarily named front-runner for the Democratic party, he’ll also say it was perfectly legal because he did AS the President and therefore is covered under Executive Branch Immunity or some such poppycock.
Granted the powers of the Executive Branch are wide and far reaching, but they are not without limits. We have a balance of powers for a reason, so that no one branch can become dominant. Each branch must answer to the other two in some fashion, while they also remain independent in their assigned duties.
The Legislative branch, House and Senate, have the power to write the laws that we all live under. The Judicial branch is supposed to interpret the law, and the Executive branch is supposed to administer or execute them. This distribution of power has worked for over 200 years with a generally agreed level of success. Certainly there have been times when one branch assumed prominence and then is counterbalanced.
Historically we have had little political disruption beyond that of changing tides and times, (Yes that Civil War thing was a bit of a big deal I recognize, but compared to other countries and their rotating leadership, we’re quite stable.) The grand scandals of our country are Tea Pot Dome, Watergate, and something about an intern, and a land deal. There are probably a few others, but those are the big ones that come to mind.
What’s crucial to know about them is that they were all domestic issues. Mostly about money, a bit of sex (in the pre #METOO days) and winning elections. The current simmering scandal with the Trump Administration is definitely about winning elections, some money and strong arming, along with a maybe too cozy relationship with a foreign government.
The allegation is that Mr. Trump withheld 250 million dollars of foreign military aid from Ukraine, while asking their government – EIGHT TIMES in one phone call – to investigate Mr. Biden. This sounds very Trumpian in negotiation tactics and hence is quite believable, and of course Mr. Trump has acknowledged that he did discuss Mr. Biden with the Ukrainians.
Is this treason? 18 U.S. Code §2381 reads: “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.”
The question is how would this apply? In my opinion, the only clause that Mr. Trump’s actions could fall under would be the “…adheres to their enemies…” so does asking a foreign government to investigate your political opponent rise to the level of “adhering to their enemies” – possibly if Mr. Trump would then be indebted in some way to the Ukrainians. That was much more likely before the news came out. It’s like most things, once it’s out in the open, the leverage factor of the Ukrainians goes away.
So who is using this against Mr. Trump? His GOP Primary challenger Governor William Weld is, pardon the usage, trumpeting the treason charge. This is blood in the water for a career politician like Weld who will be pressing this forward I imagine for the next few weeks.
Weld has called for the death penalty for Mr. Trump – which even if there were a conviction to be had, is an extremely unlikely event. I did a bit of internet sleuthing and found on that repository of all semi-verifiable information, Wikipedia, that in the United States there were 14 convictions for treason in the history of our country, of which only 3 resulted in an actual execution.
So in sum, did he commit treason – hard to shoehorn that one in, if he did will he be convicted, not likely, if he is convicted will he be executed? Not very likely at all.