Thursday, July 28, 2016

Taking Russia's Side

Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason.
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

                                          -John Harington, b. 1561; d. 1612

Donald Trump has not committed treason. Dylan Matthews at Vox notes that Trump has not declared war on the USA. Nor has he given aid and comfort to our enemies because Russia, technically, is not our enemy and a Supreme Court case decided in April, 1945 sets a very high bar for "aid and comfort."  Article 3, Section 3 of the Constititution reads

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

But though Trump cannot legitimately be charged with treason, his campagin betrays a disdain for the voting public as it tries to explain away one of the comments he made at his news conference on Wednesday:

If it is Russia, which it's probably not, nobody knows who it is, but if it is Russia, it's really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country. When they would hack into a major party and get everything, but it would be interesting. I will tell you this. Russia, if you're listening, I hope you find the thirty thousand emails that are missing. I think you'll probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens next.

Trump senior communications advisor Jason Miller first tweeted "To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite Russsia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails today."  There is only one thing accurate about the tweet. Trump did not suggest the e-mail system be hacked today; it could be done at any time.

Miller soon followed that with "Trump was clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton's 33,0000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them w/FBI immed."

Your first clue that Miller is pulling his remarks out of Trump's wrong orifice is that twice he claimed his client was "clearly saying."  One time suggests the client was not "clearly" stating anything; twice makes it obvious the client was not even trying to say what he reportedly is "clearly" saying.  The second clue might be that Trump never even mentioned the FBI, unless he mistakenly said "Russia" when he meant "FBI."  He gets confused like that sometimes.

A few hours after Miller's rationalization, Trump claimed "Of course I'm being sarcastic. And they don't even know frankly if it's Russia."

It's becoming increasingly clear the e-mails were hacked by Russia. Trump does not understand the word "sarcastic." And was he being sarcastic when he (supposedly) maintained Russia should give them to the FBI?

Trump's campaign and the candidate himself should get their stories straight. Still, virtually no votes will be lost by the candidate who once boasted "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." "But," as Charlie Pierce writes of Trump's unprecedented remarks, "it's nice to keep a record, because future historians are not going to believe this happened."

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