Erasmus, the noted classical scholar, described lawyers this style: A most learned species of profoundly ignorant men.
He had a point. How else do you explain the wild pronouncements of lawyers like Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter and Senator Tim Kaine, D-Virginia? Each have suggested Donald Trump Jr. committed treason by meeting with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.
All three lawyers earned their degrees at Harvard or Yale. Yet, they appear to have slept through their class on constitutional law.
Treason is defined in Article 3 of the Constitution and codified in 18 USC 2381: Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, either levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and convenience with the U.S. or elsewhere .
Meeting with a Russian lawyer is not treason. The U.S. is not at war with Russia. Even if the presidents son received information from the Russian government or otherwise cooperated with foreign officials, it constitutes neither waging war against the U.S. nor aiding the foe.
If it were otherwise, a myriad of Republican and Democratic Senators who admit meeting with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, might be somehow guilty of treason. In these meetings, information is surely exchanged. No one has in the past suggested it rises to the level of criminality. Indeed, it is what diplomats and foreign officials do. It is what our own officials do in foreign lands.
Collusion has nothing to do with elections and political campaigns. Which renders special counseling Robert Mueller’s investigation meaningless. He is tasked with discovering international crimes that does not exist in the law. It is a legal impossibility.
Even if the Trump campaign had acted on the information furnished by the Russian lawyer, it would still not constitute treason. Even conspiring to subvert the administration has not rise to the level of treason. Under our Constitution, Americans are permitted to speak against the government, undermine political opponents, support harmful policies or even place the rights and interests of another nation ahead of those of the U.S.
You would think these lawyers, however misguided by their political prejudices, would nevertheless see such a basic principle of constitutional and statutory law. Clearly, they do not.
Each harbor their own biases which have blinded them to the law. Tribe and Painter sued President Trump within days of his taking office. They claim his many business dealings violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Their occurrence is without merit.
Kaine might be described as a sore loser, having lost the presidential election as Hillary Clintons vice presidential work mate.
Before perpetuating the treason canard, these lawyers should reread the famous 1953 case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They were convicted of espionage after nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. They were not charged with treason because the U.S. was not at war with the Soviets.
So lets dispense with all this silliness over treason.
Collusion? No Such Thing
Now, amid the cacophony of claims that the Trump campaign committed the criminal offense of collusion with the Russians , no one had been successful in point to a ordinance that attains colluding with a foreign government in a political campaign international crimes. Why? Because it cannot will find information anywhere in Americas criminal codes.
As explained in an earlier column, collusion is a loaded term conjuring all manner of incriminating behavior. Yet, it exists only in anti-trust statutes which forbid price fixing and other anti-competitive activities under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Collusion has nothing whatsoever to do with elections and political campaigns. Of course, that inconvenient fact has not stopped legislators, pundits and journalists from either misunderstanding the concept and/ or misconstruing its application to the Trump-Russia hysteria.
It also renders special counsel Robert Muellers investigation meaningless. He is tasked with determining international crimes that does not exist in the law. It is a legal impossibility.
The only conceivable crime tangentially related to collusion is available in 18 USC 371, entitled Conspiracy to Victimize the United States. It induces it a misdemeanour for two or more persons to enter into an agreement to interfere or stymie a lawful function of the governmental forces. An election would be a lawful government function. However, it must be done by deceitful or dishonest means .
So lets suppose, for the sake of debate, that the Russian lawyer provided information damaging to the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign then acted on the material by disseminating it to the public. How is that deceitful or dishonest? It is not.
But this is not what happened, as best we know. According to Trump Jr ., the lawyer offered no information at all. Indeed, the lawyer insists the subject of the campaign was never broached.
Lets play another what if. What if the Russian lawyer handed Trump Jr. a file and said, here is information which we hacked from the DNC and the Clinton campaign? If the presidents son accepted the file, then he could be accused of knowingly receiving stolen property. But again, there is no evidence this ever happened.
It is worth remembering that the hacked information was not made publicly available by Wikileaks until after the June 9 th meeting. Months subsequently, in October, the U.S. government officially acknowledged Russian interference in the election.
There is one final law to be considered. Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, soliciting and/ or receiving foreign gifts is proscribed( 11 CFR 110.20 ). This includes money or other thing of value . Is information, by itself, a thing of value? One could attempt to induce that argument, but it has never been interpreted that route.
Moreover, campaign election laws are rarely the subject of criminal prosecutions. The vast majority of cases are civil violations resulting in penalties. But again, both Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer agree that no information related to the presidential campaign was communicated. If true, this statute is inapplicable.
As much as President Trumps opponents may wish it to be, it is not a crime to meet with a Russian. Nor is it a crime to meet with a Russian lawyer or government official. Even gathering information from a foreign source is permissible. Unwise and ill-advised, yes. Illegal , no.
Until such hour as Congress decides to pass a bill and the president signs it into statute criminalizing collusion with a foreign government in an American political campaign no law has been broken here.
Gregg Jarrett is a Fox News Anchor and former defense attorney .
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