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Constitutional FAQ Answer #92

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Q92. "President Clinton has been accused of selling nuclear technology to China — how can we get him convicted of treason?"

A. First, it is interesting to note that treason is the only crime that is defined in the Constitution. Specifically, it is adhering to or giving comfort to the enemies of the United States. It can only be proven if the accused admits to it in open court or on the testimony of two eyewitnesses.

There are a few key issues here that strike at the heart of the "Clinton is a Traitor" war cry. First, the President did not sell any thing to the Chinese directly. There are allegations that the Chinese had a spy in the United States' nuclear weapons development facility at Los Alamos; one certainly cannot hold the President responsible for the acts of a spy. Other allegations are that the Clinton administration knew about the spy and did nothing about it. If this is true, holding the President responsible for the inaction of a subordinate seems unfair.

Another allegation is that the President authorized the sale of U.S. missile technology to China — but again, the President is not directly responsible for authorizing transfer of technology to other nations. There is government involvement, but the transfer was initiated by U.S. companies, not the U.S. government.

Finally, and this is the clincher: China is not an enemy of the United States, and hence there cannot be treason (this does not mean that laws were not violated, but treason was not committed). Some may argue that China is an enemy, and on the face of it, it may seem so. But China is a major trading partner, and one does not trade with one's enemies. China and the U.S. are cooperating, or at least trying to, on the question of North Korea. Enemies do not cooperate in this way. And the U.S. Code defines an enemy as a nation with which the United States is at war. That's it. We are not at war with China, either de facto or de jure. Hence, no matter what else is said, there is no treason (but, again, there could be violations of other laws).


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