Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) — the third-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — made the rounds of political news programs this weekend as the designated Trump administration surrogate on the attack dog circuit — a role that required her to advance the president’s latest lies and paranoid accusations against the intelligence agencies that launched the initial investigation of his campaign’s coordination with Russia.
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Attack she did. Appearing on ABC‘s This Week, Representative Cheney repeated President Trump’s slanderous descriptions of the private text messages sent between former FBI agent Peter Strozok and lawyer Lisa Page during the early stages of the investigation as “treason,” defying any known legitimate legal definition of the term.
Rep. Liz Cheney: "We had people that are at the highest levels of our law enforcement … saying that they were going to stop a duly elected president of the United States."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 26, 2019
Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara saw Congresswoman Cheney repeat Trump’s misdefined accusations and decided that he had to respond and set the record straight about what the Constitution actually declares to be treasonous behavior.
Elected officials keep making casual, ignorant, idiotic accusations of “treason.” Trump does it. Just saw Liz Cheney do it. Read the Constitution and knock it the hell off.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) May 26, 2019
As a seasoned federal attorney, Bharara is quite aware that government employees maintain the right to hold whatever political opinions suit their fancy and — absent any evidence that their work is being tainted by those opinions — not only deserve the presumption of innocence that the president is denying Strozok and Page in his public pronouncements but could not possibly be guilty of treason as defined in the Constitution.
Article Three Section Three of the U.S. Constitution defines treason quite clearly and narrowly:
“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.”
Even if Trump could prove that the FBI was investigating his links to the now-proven Russian interference in the American electoral process in a politically biased manner — a highly unlikely scenario given that the Bureau was simultaneously investigating Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email and harming her chances of winning the election by making unprecedented public statements about the course of their probe — any actions against him, still a private citizen when the investigation began, could not fit the constitutional definition of treason no matter how much President Trump may try to convince his gullible followers.
Bharara wasn’t the only one to criticize Representative Cheney for carrying Trump’s water and repeating his ludicrous charges. Retired Air Force Colonel Morris Davis — the former Chief Prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions — attacked the Congresswoman for her peddling of a false narrative and reminded her that there was someone else who was more worthy of being prosecuted than the former intelligence investigators — her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
That’s not treason … but if @Liz_Cheney is really interested in accountability for serious malfeasance what her daddy did is a war crime and a violation of the Convention Against Torture which the U.S. has an obligation to investigate and punish. https://t.co/mlIZ7Gs4sd
— Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) May 27, 2019
Now that’s a serious burn to which Cheney is unlikely to want to respond, no matter how painfully accurate, unlike her spurious charges of treason.
With the Trump administration looking like it may blunder its way into another useless and unjustified Middle East war — this time with Iran — Col. Davis’s reminder of the Republican legacy of war crimes only makes the imperative of Trump’s immediate impeachment all the more crucial.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.