Column: Does accusing Trump of treason go too far?
The Burning Man of Treason continues apace. It’s been three weeks of rowdy summer fun, every night, with Trump protesters whooping it up outside the White House. The madcap demonstration calls itself #KremlinAnnex, and its beef is with — what else? — Trump’s apparent Russian commitments.
#KremlinAnnex protesters, some dressed as T-Rexes, decry what they see as Trump’s willingness to subvert American interests to Russian ones. On their marquee sign, the protesters call this tendency of Trump’s … TREASON.
In big brazen letters. Next to people in shark suits. Crazy kids.
Organized mostly by Adam Parkhomenko, the boisterous Ukrainian American advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the #KremlinAnnex protest translates a controversial and mouthy strain of online resistance into living color.
Crying ‘obstruction’ or ‘collusion’ before Mueller sings is considered, in our ‘both sides’-besotted times, a misstep.
When they charge the American president with treason, what they mean is that he’s been — as the Constitution has it erratically capitalized — levying War against the United States, or adhering to its Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
Does the treason charge go too far?
Most Americans are only now coming around to the possibility that the President of the United States may have committed the more genteel crime of obstruction of justice.
Possibly he further took part in a criminal conspiracy, perhaps even involving a foreign adversary. As the scope of that conspiracy comes to light in the 35 indictments and pleas generated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, it seems at least fathomable that the president was involved.
Even so, crying “obstruction” or “collusion” before Mueller sings is considered, in our “both sides”-besotted times, a misstep. If you do that in the media, it’s necessary to make an elaborate display of prudence, evenhandedness and reservations. “Let’s not rush to judgment,” you must say over and over again.
Of course the crowd outside the Kremlin Annex — excuse me, White House — has decided to forgo polite society.
Now, technically, according to UC Davis legal scholar Carlton F.W. Larson, treason entails adhering to a declared Enemy — a power with which we are officially at war.
But, rhetorically, the T-word nicely suits Trump’s bowing-and-scraping routine with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, which set off the #KremlinAnnex protest.
And the protesters are not the only ones who read the Helsinki event that way. John Brennan, the former CIA director, called Trump’s performance in Helsinki “nothing short of treasonous.”
Moreover, as citizens — rather than prosecutors — the protesters are well within their rights to reason that because Russia and the U.S. are fighting a proxy war in Syria, Russia should count as an Enemy to which Trump has given ample succor.
The merry band in front of the White House is also, of course, throwing caution to the wind because they see civil disobedience as eminently necessary now. They also understand that protesters who take unruly online treason speech into so-called meatspace risk physical confrontation with team Make America Great Again, and they’re OK with that; they’re putting more on the line to make their point than anyone jabbering on Twitter.
Their protest borrows from the theatricality of the ACT UP AIDS-advocacy protests in the 1980s and ’90s and the fearlessness of the Vietnam-era demonstrations, when dissidents didn’t hesitate to lay blame for the murders of soldiers and civilians squarely at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s feet.
One major difference, though: The FBI tried to crush those protests. Today some in the FBI seem actually to share the concerns of #KremlinAnnex.
So it looks like good weather to join #KremlinAnnex this evening, if you’re around the nation’s capital. For next week’s planning purposes: On Aug. 7, the gang is going to celebrate Robert Mueller’s birthday. With bagpipes.
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