The Constitution center’s Paul T. Crane and Deborah Pearlstein on the question of “Treason.“The Constitution specifically identifies what constitutes treason against the United States and, importantly, limits the offense of treason to only two types of conduct: (1) “levying war” against the United States; or (2) “adhering to [the] enemies [of the United States], giving them aid and comfort.” Although there have not been many treason prosecutions in American history — indeed, only one person has been indicted for treason since 1954 — the Supreme Court has had occasion to define further what each type of treason entails.
The offense of “levying war” against the United States was interpreted narrowly in Ex parte Bollman & Swarthout (1807), a case stemming from former vice president Aaron’s infamous alleged plot Burr to overthrow the American government in New Orleans. The Supreme Court dismissed treason charges against two of Burr’s associates — Bollman and Swarthout — because their alleged conduct did not constitute levying war against the United States within the Treason Clause’s meaning. It was not enough, Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion emphasized, merely to conspire “to subvert by force the government of our country” by recruiting troops, procuring maps, and drawing up plans. Conspiring to levy war is distinct from actually levying war. Rather, a person could be convicted of treason for levying war only if there was an “actual assemblage of men to execute a treasonable design.” In so holding, the Court sharply confined the scope of the offense of treason by levying war against the United States.
Article I, Section 5, of the United States Constitution provides that “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.” Since 1789, the Senate has expelled only fifteen of its entire membership. (the US Senate).
The House and Senate must send a message to Republicans who betrayed their oaths to the Constitution; they embraced the traitorous lies of Donald Trump, if it is left to go unpunished, it becomes precedent.
John Smith Resigns Under Fire
April 25, 1808
He was the first senator to be indicted, and he came close to becoming the second senator — after William Blount in 1797 — to be expelled on charges of treason. With his political and business careers in shambles, John Smith reluctantly resigned from the Senate on April 25, 1808.
One of Ohio’s first two senators, Smith took office on October 25, 1803. Almost nothing is known of his earliest years, including his parents’ names or birthplace. A large and gregarious man with a talent for impassioned oratory, he established himself as a preacher in the 1790s. He then moved on to the greater financial rewards of life as a trader, supplying military posts near Cincinnati. He entered political life and won the Ohio territorial legislature, where he led a successful campaign for statehood.
While in the Senate, Smith continued his profitable trading ventures in Louisiana and West Florida and pursued numerous land investment schemes. In 1805 former vice president Aaron Burr sought his support in organizing a military expedition against Spanish Florida. Although Smith claimed he had no interest in Burr’s plot to force secession of Spanish territories, he agreed to provide supplies for the proposed expedition. When President Thomas Jefferson later issued an alert, charging that Burr’s actual purpose was an invasion of Mexico, Smith responded patriotically by financing weapons to defend against the Burr expedition and delivering those weapons to New Orleans. These travels caused him to miss weeks of Senate sessions and led the Ohio legislature to charge him with dereliction of duty and demand his resignation.
Although Smith ignored that demand, he found his troubles increasing as a court in Richmond, Virginia, indicted him in mid-1807 for participating in Burr’s conspiracy. As he traveled to Richmond, he learned that the court had acquitted Burr on a technicality and had dropped his own case.
Soon after the Senate convened in late 1807, members opened an investigation into Smith’s conduct. A defense team that included prominent Baltimore lawyer Francis Scott Key argued that Smith might have been naïve but no traitor. By a vote of 19 to 10 — one short of the two-thirds required for expulsion — Smith retained his seat. Concluding that his political career was over, he then resigned. He moved to the Louisiana Territory, forced into bankruptcy, where he lived his remaining years in poverty. (US Senate)
THERE IS ENOUGH PRECEDENT FOR THE HOUSE & SENATE TO ACT AGAINST THE TRAITORS WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT.
Ten Senators Expelled
July 11, 1861
For what reasons should the Senate expel a member? The Constitution states that each house of Congress may “punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” When the Senate expelled William Blount in 1797 by a nearly unanimous vote, it had reason to believe he was involved in a conspiracy against the United States.
Sixty-four years later, at the start of the Civil War, senators again turned to this constitutional safeguard. Between December 1860 and June 1861, 11 of the nation’s 34 states had voted to withdraw from the Union. What was the status of their 22 senators at the beginning of the 37th Congress? Some were no longer senators because their terms had expired. Others sent a letter of resignation. Still, others, believing their seats no longer existed, left without formal notice. Several remained, despite their states’ departure.
During a brief special session in March 1861, weeks before the hostilities start, the Senate decided to consider these seats as vacant to avoid officially recognizing that a state could leave the Union.
On the Fourth of July 1861, with open warfare in progress, President Abraham Lincoln convened Congress to deal with the emergency. With all hope of reconciliation gone, the Senate took up a resolution of expulsion against its 10 missing members. The resolution’s supporters argued that the 10 were guilty, like Blount years before, of conspiracy against the government. In futile opposition, several senators contended that the departed southerners were merely following their states’ dictates and were not guilty of personal misconduct.
On July 11, 1861, the Senate quickly passed Senate Daniel Clark’s resolution, expelling all 10 southern senators by a vote of 32 to 10. By the following February, the Senate expelled another four senators for offering aid to the Confederacy. Since 1862, despite considering expulsion in an additional 16 instances, the Senate has removed no member under this provision. (US Senate)
Friendship or Treason?
February 5, 1862
He was a large man who walked with a swagger. Despite his limited formal education, he built a flourishing law practice and rose rapidly in the world of Indiana Democratic politics. Abrupt and hot-tempered, he was among the shrewdest of his state’s political figures.
By 1845, Jesse Bright had become president of the Indiana state senate. Capitalizing on an opportunity to break a tied vote on selecting a United States senator, he engineered his own election to that office.
In the Senate, Bright’s knowledge of the chamber’s rules and precedents won him the post of president pro tempore on several occasions. In the 1850s, however, he lost many of his natural political allies who were uncomfortable with his increasing support of legislation to protect slavery in the nation’s territories. By 1860, his ownership of a Kentucky farm and 20 slaves led antislavery Indiana legislators to consider asking the Senate to declare his seat vacant. As southern states began to leave the Union, Bright opposed the use of force against them because he believed they would soon return.
The July 1861 Battle of Bull Run proved a disaster for Union troops — and Jesse Bright. During the battle, Union forces captured an arms merchant as he attempted to cross into Confederate territory. They discovered that he carried a letter of introduction to Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The letter, highly deferential in tone, was signed by the United States Senator Jesse Bright.
When the Senate took up the matter in January 1862, Bright explained that the captured arms supplier was a former client of his law practice. Although he claimed not to remember writing the letter, he asserted that it was only natural to introduce a friend to Davis, until recently a Senate colleague. Finally, Bright noted that the letter was dated March 1 — before any fighting began. Aware that the Senate’s Republican majority caucus had already determined his fate, Bright took the Senate floor on February 5, 1862, to state his case, if only “for posterity.” He then gathered his belongings and walked solemnly from the chamber. Moments later, by a vote of 32 to 14, Bright became the 14th and final senator expelled by the Senate during the Civil War. No senator has been expelled since his time.
After a doomed Senate reelection bid, Bright served in the Kentucky legislature and went on to earn a fortune from his investments in West Virginia coal mines. (US Senate).
Some Senate Republicans sold their souls to Donald Trump, not just by repeating his lies, but by taking steps to overturn the American people’s will. They are no less traitorous than Jesse Bright. An even larger number in the US House, more than half of the caucus, did the same thing.
What they are, is of worse character. Not a single one of them will voluntarily walk away as Jesse Bright did 159 years ago.
It is for those reasons that the Senate [must] act to expel them from the Senate. The House [must] also act to expel the entire list of traitorous House members, including Kevin McCarthy, their leader, who clearly knew that what Trump was propagating was lies, but he expected to be a major player in an autocratic Trump régime, so he supported the lies.\
The events that came to a head, on January 6th, 2021, did not start when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared the winner of the 202 0 Presidential elections. It started when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008.
On the day that the first African-American President was being inaugurated, many Republicans met surreptitiously in a DC restaurant to chart a course to ensure the failure of the new president. Ask yourselves whether that was a political move or whether it was a blatantly un-American conspiracy?
Mitch McConnell declared then that [his] only goal, was to ensure that the new President is a one-term president. Pretty amazing, but not out of the ordinary; that was politics.
However, the sad reality is that a sewer pipe of nastiness was opened into the aqueduct of political discourse, contaminating the narrative in ways none of us have seen in our lifetimes.
That sewer pipe was Sarah Palin. Palin was another insufferable ignoramus that was welcomed into the sewer swamp of Republican politics. She is the same uneducated dunce that Donald Trump is; through broken English and folks embarrassing flubs, she was glorified as a real American, stupidity, and ignorance were celebrated as American, while intellectualism and the belief in science were ridiculed on right-wing media, further propagating ignorance and broadening the swamp.
None of it occurred in a vacuum. A dumb ignoramus, Sarah Palin, became a right-wing star because she was unabashed in the insidious racist invectives she unleashed into the political bloodstream.
Palin became the most caustic and insidious against Brack Obama; Sarah Palin helped with emboldening another ignorant Moron, the one who now sits in the White House.
On November 3rd, 2020, African-American women’s power became clear in its manifestation across the vast plains of America. It was not the beginning of their cohesiveness as a political force; it was only one iteration of their political effectiveness.
From their decision to bring Joe Biden back from political oblivion in South Carolina, Stacy Abrams’ herculean effort to register more voters after being the victim of Republican voter fraud in Georgia, black women showed who the boss was.
Some black men were on social media demonstrating their lack of depth, shamelessly supporting Donald Trump because he dangled giving tax-payers money to them.
How utterly disgusting are these men who would sell their souls, much less for a one-time pittance from a racist sociopath?
At the same time, African-American women were organizing, registering, encouraging, and getting others to the polls.
These women did not only save America from the hordes who turned out to vote for Trump in larger numbers than they did in 2016, but they also did it in electing an African-American preacher and a Jew to the US Senate in the state of Georgia for the very first time in history.
You have seen the Confederate flag in the Capitol building, that is what it was about.
Trump and his Republican allies wanted the votes thrown out because they knew that African-Americans had stood up and repudiated them.
Donald Trump fully expected that the Government would be overthrown, his plan also included potentially throwing the country into another civil war, one from which he would emerge president for life.
That is what it has always been about. It happened before and we will be bringing those facts to you in our next article.
Mike Beckles is a former Police Detective, businessman, freelance writer, a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog mikebeckles.com.
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