Speed Reads

the T word

'Treason' is specifically defined in the Constitution. Donald Trump Jr. didn't commit it.

As bad as things look for Donald Trump Jr. right now, the president's son almost certainly won't be charged with treason, Axios reports. "Trump Jr.'s interactions with Russian officials may very well end up seeing him in trouble under federal campaign laws — and they certainly run afoul of established norms in presidential campaigning — but they're not treason," Axios writes. "Indeed, the scope of a treason prosecution is so narrow that it's hard to fathom a Trump official ever facing down a treason charge as a result of the Russia scandal."

"Treason" is defined in the Constitution as:

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.

But as Axios notes, "the phrase 'levies war against them, or adheres to their enemies' is a crucial point for the Russia scandal because it limits a treason prosecution to a wartime crime."

On Tuesday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders slammed the use of the term in the context of Trump Jr. as being "ridiculous." That hasn't stopped people on both the left and the right from calling Trump Jr.'s behaviors "treasonous," though. That, at least, is more subjectively up to debate; while the term might not apply legally, as an adjective it means "involving or guilty of the crime of betraying one's country."