Donald Trump’s attempts to coax Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate and potential rival Joe Biden have stirred controversy. Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor and Trump critic, went as far as to say that the president’s actions could amount to treason, and it appears he’s not the only one.
Law & Crime reports that Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to suggest that Trump committed treason — an act punishable by death.
“Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. It couldn’t be clearer. That’s not just undermining Democratic institutions. That is treason – it’s treason pure and simple – and the penalty for treason under the U.S. Code is death. That’s the only penalty.”
Weld added that the death penalty could be avoided via a “plea deal” that instead leads to Trump’s removal from office.
But as Law & Crime reports, Trump’ s actions are most likely not treasonous because of the legal definition. The report points out that the definition does not cover disloyalty or the undermining of America’s electoral process. According to University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck, what many people believe is treason is not.
“In this context ‘enemies,’ for example, must be countries against which Congress has formally declared war or otherwise authorized the use of force,” he said.
Vladeck highlighted the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were eventually executed during the Cold War for leaking U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union. Even in this case, the charges that led to their downfall were not treason but “espionage.”
I'm sure his excuse would be "well, Bill Weld isn't the president," but it'd be nice if he'd cover this hour how Weld called for President Trump to be killed via execution for treason pic.twitter.com/t9m1coK2O7
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 23, 2019
Regardless, Trump’s actions both in Robert Mueller’s report into 2016 election interference via Russia and his recent talk with Ukraine have renewed calls for impeachment. Progressive firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has gone so far as to say that the biggest scandal in the U.S. is no longer Trump’s reckless and controversial behavior but congressional Democrats’ refusal to impeach him.
The biggest obstacle to Trump’s impeachment is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who doesn’t believe it’s the right move. CNN reports that independent Justin Amash — who was the first Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment during his time with the party — believes that Pelosi is “making a mistake” by not holding Trump accountable for his actions.
“From a principled, moral position, she’s making a mistake. From a strategic position, she’s making a mistake,” he said, suggesting that impeachable conduct should lead to impeachment proceedings regardless of the chances of the process passing the Senate.