In the midst of a whirlwind of reports about a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin, many are wondering: Did Donald Trump Jr. commit treason?
Some people seem to think so.
On Tuesday, July 11, former vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine told reporters, "We are now beyond obstruction of justice. This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason."
Also on Tuesday, Trump Jr. tweeted emails that led up to the meeting, which revealed he walked into it under the perception he'd receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
What's more, the email chain explicitly stated the information about Clinton was provided by the Russian government in its wider effort to aid Trump's candidacy.
For his part, Trump Jr. has maintained that his behavior was innocuous, saying in a tweeted statement that lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, “was not a government official” and that “she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy.”
Still, many feel this meeting is the first concrete proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
But, does it amount to treason?
What is treason?
Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states,
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.
So, in order for treason to be committed, the person involved has to aid a country the U.S. is at war with.
While the two countries don't exactly get along, the U.S. is not currently at war with Russia.
In other words, based on the standard definition of treason under the U.S. Constitution, it seems that Trump Jr. isn't guilty of it.
It's possible Trump Jr. broke the law but didn't commit treason.
While Trump Jr.'s actions don't seem to count as treason, legal experts still contend he likely violated campaign finance law, as Slate pointed out.
It's against federal law for a presidential campaign to solicit anything "of value" from foreign entities.
The law states, "No person shall knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation prohibited by paragraphs (b) through (d) of this section."
The information Trump Jr. believed the Russian lawyer would provide could potentially be interpreted as something "of value" from a legal standpoint, and he could conceivably be charged with a crime.
With that said, even if Trump Jr. does end up getting in trouble for this, his father is the president and has the power to pardon him.