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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Treason


The question arises as to whether trump has committed treason by any one or several of many of his actions which have the effect of advancing Russia's interests at the cost of United States National Interests.

There appear to be two components to approaching an answer to that question.

First, are there actions taken by the President which harm the National Interests of the United States and benefit the interests of other states?

And, is the country which is helped by his actions an enemy of the United Sates?

This discussion will limit itself to discussion of some of the President's actions which affect the national interests of Russia. While presidential actions may involve countries other than Russia, one or two actions benefitting Russia at the expense of the United States which began more or less immediately on the president's inauguration and have continued to date will illustrate the point. A longer list of issues is available here: [https://danger-clearandpresent.blogspot.com/2019/07/beating-trump.html]

CONCLUSION

Some of trump's acts and omissions appear to harm the National Interests of the United States and benefit the National Interests of Russia.

Russia is not formally recognized as an enemy of the United States even though it is conducting an active cyber war against our vital interests.

TREASON

An introduction to the concept and law of treason will be useful here.

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty, typically to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor...

At times, the term traitor has been used as a political epithet, regardless of any verifiable treasonable action. In a civil war or insurrection, the winners may deem the losers to be traitors. Likewise the term traitor is used in heated political discussion – typically as a slur against political dissidents, or against officials in power who are perceived as failing to act in the best interest of their constituents. In certain cases, as with the Dolchsto├člegende (Stab-in-the-back myth), the accusation of treason towards a large group of people can be a unifying political message. Treason is considered to be different and on many occasions a separate charge from "treasonable felony" in many parts of the world. [wikipedia]

CONSTITUTION

To avoid the abuses of the English law, the scope of treason was specifically restricted in the United States Constitution. Article III, section 3 reads as follows:

    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.

The Constitution does not itself create the offense; it only restricts the definition (the first paragraph), permits the United States Congress to create the offense, and restricts any punishment for treason to only the convicted (the second paragraph). The crime is prohibited by legislation passed by Congress. Therefore, the United States Code at 18 U.S.C. § 2381 states:

    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.

The requirement of testimony of two witnesses was inherited from the British Treason Act 1695.

FURTHER U. S. CONGRESS LAWS

However, Congress has passed additional laws creating related offenses that punish conduct that undermines the government or the national security, such as sedition in the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts, or espionage and sedition in the Espionage Act of 1917, which do not require the testimony of two witnesses and have a much broader definition than Article Three treason. Some of these laws are still in effect. The well-known spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage, rather than treason. [wikipedia]

NATO - POTENTIALLY TREASONOUS ACTS

Any list of presidential or administrative acts which benefit Russia's national interests would include the immediate sacking of several State Department employees who were charged with coordinating NATO activities as a counter to Russian actions. Russia, and especially Putin, dislikes NATO intensely; they consider it a hostile power devoted to encircling Russian territory and preventing Russia from taking actions in its interests.

Since Russia has borne the brunt of two European invasions of its territories, Russia considers its Western borders to be its most vulnerable areas and devotes much of its military activities to protecting that border.

Any activity which weakens or divides NATO helps Russia directly. trump has taken actions which weaken NATO during his  administration to date. These actions seem to merit a charge of treasonous activity.

ELECTIONS - POTENTIALLY TREASONOUS ACTS

Fair and free elections are the lifeblood of the United States political system. One of our political lodestones is that interference in the election process will damage the vital interests of the United States and, perhaps, pave the way for corruption and tyranny.

Our intelligence community as seconded by the United States Senate has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in favor of trump and that it will continue that interference with the 2020 election with the objective of returning trump to a second term.

The Bi-Partisan Senate Report provides further bipartisan evidence of Russia's election meddling in 2016; it finds "the IRA [Russian Internet Research Agency] sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin." It also says that the IRA's activities were "part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society" and that IRA activity increased, rather than decreased, after Election Day 2016.

[Read the report here - https://www.axios.com/senate-intelligence-committee-russian-interference-report-425274e8-1780-44c3-963a-cd839ef1cbe5.html]

In order to counter this election meddling, both houses of Congress have passed several laws designed to secure our election process. trump has refused to sign or consider these laws or other measures with the same objective. By his failure to act, trump probably has committed treason against the United States.

IS RUSSIA OUR ENEMY?

Some of trump's acts have damaged the national interests of the United States and helped the national interests of Russia. And, Russia has built up its armed forces in the last few years even though it is a financial burden. See this site for a discussion of the relative strength of Russian and United States armed forces: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBapU_C76t0]


But, is Russia an enemy?

There has been conflict between the United States and Russia for many generations. While there was a time of tension relaxation during the dissolution of the USSR, Russia under Putin has re-activated hostility toward the USA with an extensive campaign of cyber warfare designed to weaken and exploit the United States.

This campaign seems to have hit its stride in about 2015 and it is fair to say that Russia today is an enemy of the United States. However, the formal foreign relation apparatus of the State Department has lagged behind the current reality and still considers Russia to be a potential partner.

Here is the official statement from the State Department on Russia:

U.S. Relations With Russia - Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet - Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

June 25, 2019

More information about Russia is available on the Russia Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.

U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS

Russia recognized the United States on October 28, 1803, and diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia were formally established in 1809. Diplomatic relations were interrupted following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. On December 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson instructed all American diplomatic representatives in Russia to refrain from any direct communication with representatives of the Bolshevik Government. Although diplomatic relations were never formally severed, the United States refused to recognize or have any formal relations with the Bolshevik/Soviet governments until 1933. Normal diplomatic relations were resumed on November 16, 1933, when President Franklin Roosevelt informed Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov that the United States recognized the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On December 25, 1991, the United States recognized the Russian Federation as the successor to the Soviet Union and established diplomatic relations on December 31, 1991.

The United States has long sought a full and constructive relationship with Russia. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States adopted a bipartisan strategy to facilitate cooperation on global issues and promote foreign investment and trade. The United States supported Russia’s integration into European and global institutions and a deepened bilateral partnership in security cooperation to reinforce the foundations of stability and predictability. In response to the Russian violation in 2014 of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, however, the United States downgraded the bilateral political and military relationship and suspended the Bilateral Presidential Commission, a body jointly founded in 2009 by the United States and Russia to promote cooperation between the two countries. In addition to ongoing Russian aggression in Georgia and Ukraine, Russia has demonstrated its willingness to undermine norms within the existing international system beyond traditional military campaigns to encompass a suite of “hybrid” tools that are used to gain influence. Russia’s campaign aims to undermine core institutions of the West, such as NATO and the EU, and to weaken faith in the democratic and free-market system. The United States has sought to deter further Russian aggression through the projection of strength and unity with U.S. allies, and by building resilience and reducing vulnerability among allies facing Russian pressure and coercion. The United States would like to move beyond the current low level of trust with Russia, stabilize our relationship, and cooperate where possible and when in core U.S. national security interests. To achieve this, Russia must take demonstrable steps to show it is willing to be a responsible global actor, starting with a cessation of efforts to interfere in democratic processes. The long-term goal of the United States is to see Russia become a constructive stakeholder in the global community.

Bilateral Economic Relations

In response to Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, the United States has suspended bilateral engagement with the Russian government on most economic issues. The United States continues to investigate allegations of mistreatment of or discrimination against U.S. investors in Russia and to urge Russia to improve its investment climate, adherence to the rule of law, and transparency. In Russia, the U.S. Commercial Service continues to assist U.S. firms interested in developing market opportunities that do not violate sanctions.

Since 2014, the United States and our European and G-7 partners imposed sanctions on Russia for its aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine, occupation of Crimea, and interference in U.S. elections. Sectoral sanctions have reduced Russia’s ability to access financing in the financial, energy, and defense sectors, as well as limited its access to certain technologies in those sectors.

A combination of low oil prices, structural limitations, and sanctions pushed Russia into a deep recession in 2015, with the economy contracting by four percent and one percent in 2016. Russia’s economy has returned to modest growth since 2017, owing to a global rebound in oil prices.  The World Bank projects that GDP growth will remain modest, at approximately 1.5-1.8 percent in the period 2018-2020.  In 2018, Russia’s oil production reached a post-Soviet high, averaging 11.6 barrels/day.

United States State Department.

HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF TREASON

United States

In the 1790s, opposition political parties were new and not fully accepted. Government leaders often considered their opponents to be traitors. Historian Ron Chernow reports that Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and President George Washington "regarded much of the criticism fired at their administration as disloyal, even treasonous, in nature."When an undeclared Quasi-War broke out with France in 1797–98, "Hamilton increasingly mistook dissent for treason and engaged in hyperbole." Furthermore, the Jeffersonian opposition party behaved the same way.  After 1801, with a peaceful transition in the political party in power, the rhetoric of "treason" against political opponents diminished. [wikipedia}

Historical cases

In the United States, Benedict Arnold's name is considered synonymous with treason due to his collaboration with the British during the American Revolutionary War. This, however, occurred before the Constitution was written. Arnold became a general in the British Army, which protected him.

Since the Constitution came into effect, there have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions for treason and even fewer convictions. Several men were convicted of treason in connection with the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion but were pardoned by President George Washington.

Burr trial

The most famous treason trial, that of Aaron Burr in 1807, resulted in acquittal. In 1807, on a charge of treason, Burr was brought to trial before the United States Circuit Court at Richmond, Virginia. The only physical evidence presented to the grand jury was General James Wilkinson's so-called letter from Burr, which proposed the idea of stealing land in the Louisiana Purchase. The trial was presided over by Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall, acting as a circuit judge. Since no witnesses testified, Burr was acquitted in spite of the full force of Jefferson's political influence thrown against him. Immediately afterward, Burr was tried on a misdemeanor charge and was again acquitted.

Civil War

During the American Civil War, treason trials were held in Indianapolis against Copperheads for conspiring with the Confederacy against the United States. After the war the question was whether the United States government would make indictments for treason against leaders of the Confederate States of America, as many people demanded. Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, was indicted and held in prison for two years. The indictment was dropped in 1869 when the political scene had changed and it was possible he would be acquitted by a jury in Virginia. When accepting Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, at Appomattox, in April 1865, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assured all Confederate soldiers and officers a blanket amnesty, provided they returned to their homes and refrained from any further acts of hostility, and subsequently other Union generals issued similar terms of amnesty when accepting Confederate surrenders. All Confederate officials received a blanket amnesty issued by President Andrew Johnson as he left office in 1869.

World War II

Iva Toguri, known as Tokyo Rose, was tried for treason after World War II for her broadcasts to American troops.

In 1949 Iva Toguri D'Aquino was convicted of treason for wartime radio broadcasts (under the name of "Tokyo Rose") and sentenced to ten years, of which she served six. As a result of prosecution witnesses having lied under oath, she was pardoned in 1977.

In 1952 Tomoya Kawakita, a Japanese-American dual citizen was convicted of treason and sentenced to death for having worked as an interpreter at a Japanese POW camp and having mistreated American prisoners. He was recognized by a former prisoner at a department store in 1946 after having returned to the United States. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. He was released and deported in 1963.

Cold War and after

The Cold War saw frequent talk linking treason with support for Communist-led causes. The most memorable of these came from Senator Joseph McCarthy, who used rhetoric about the Democrats as guilty of "twenty years of treason". As chosen chair of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, McCarthy also investigated various government agencies for Soviet spy rings (see the Venona project); however, he acted as a political fact-finder rather than a criminal prosecutor. The Cold War period saw no prosecutions for explicit treason, but there were convictions and even executions for conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union, such as in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case.

On October 11, 2006, the United States government charged Adam Yahiye Gadahn for videos in which he appeared as a spokesman for al-Qaeda and threatened attacks on American soil. He was killed on January 19, 2015 in an unmanned aircraft (drone) strike in Waziristan, Pakistan.

Treason against U.S. states

Most states have treason provisions in their constitutions or statutes similar to those in the U.S. Constitution. The Extradition Clause specifically defines treason as an extraditable offense.

Thomas Jefferson in 1791 said that any Virginia official who cooperated with the federal Bank of the United States proposed by Alexander Hamilton was guilty of "treason" against the state of Virginia and should be executed. The Bank opened and no one was prosecuted.

Several persons have been prosecuted for treason on the state level. Thomas Dorr was convicted for treason against the state of Rhode Island for his part in the Dorr Rebellion, but was eventually granted amnesty. John Brown was convicted of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia for his part in the raid on Harpers Ferry, and was hanged. The Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, was charged with treason against Missouri along with five others, at first in front of a state military court, but Smith was allowed to escape to Illinois after his case was transferred to a civilian court for trial on charges of treason and other crimes. Smith was then later imprisoned for trial on charges of treason against Illinois, but was murdered by a lynch mob while in jail awaiting trial. [wikipedia]






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