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A left-wing Harvard Law professor drew fierce criticism for suggesting that Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the “Trump wing” of the Republican Party could be considered as backing Russian President Vladimir Putin and committing treason for their remarks opposing the U.S. intervening in the conflict in Ukraine.
“Led by Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, the GOP’s Trump wing appears to be throwing its weight behind Putin. If Putin opts to wage war on our ally, Ukraine, such ‘aid and comfort’ to an ‘enemy’ would appear to become ‘treason’ as defined by Article III of the U.S. Constitution,” Laurence Tribe wrote early Monday morning in a now-deleted tweet.
Article III, Section 3 of the United States 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.
Tribe’s tweet was aimed specifically at Carlson, who has dedicated multiple opening monologues to the issue of Russia and Ukraine, expressing his opposition to U.S. intervention in the conflict and prioritizing the problems at the U.S.-Mexico border over the Ukraine-Russia border.
“Is [intervention in Ukraine] what Republican voters want?” Carlson asked rhetorically in a segment earlier this month. “Let’s see. If you asked them, they’d probably say ‘Well, why don’t we send as much military equipment to the Texas border as we’ve sent to the Russian border?’ If someone said that out loud, then maybe the entire country could assess how grotesque Washington’s priorities are.”
Carlson also mocked the conclusions of U.S. media personalities in another monologue. “If you’re not terrified about the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the [the media’s] question is, ‘whose side are you on here? Whose side are you on?'” Carlson mocked. “And we know [the media’s] answer to that question: ‘you’re on Vladimir Putin’s side.'” Carlson then joked that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was a Russian agent, but that he could relate, “because as you know if you watch the media, we’re agents of Putin too.” Carlson then played a compilation of clips from mainstream media calling him a “propagandist,” “dangerous,” and “committed to tearing down American embrace and support…of the world’s democracies.”
“Let’s be clear about what the terms are,” Carlson said. “In the United States…if you raise any questions about the wisdom of siding, in a war in eastern Europe, with one country over another, you are, by definition, an agent of the single greatest threat to democracy on this globe, Mr. Vladimir Putin himself. You’re treasonous.”
Legal experts and Twitter users quickly pointed out that Tribe had gone too far, and that there was not a Constitutional argument to bring treason charges against Carlson or others.
“This is completely false. Constitutional text, history, and precedent say this is false. It’s not even in the same ballpark as the truth,” The Dispatch Senior Editor and Atlantic contributor David French tweeted in response.
This is completely false. Constitutional text, history, and precedent say this is false. It's not even in the same ballpark as the truth. Here's a very helpful discussion of "treason" from the National Constitution Center: https://t.co/zFL2sQ4ouO https://t.co/RcxjpNKXWH
— David French (@DavidAFrench) February 21, 2022
“Please be advised that any questioning of US policy or. the prevailing US narrative during this sensitive time constitutes the crime of treason, according to Harvard Law Professor @tribelaw. Treason is punishable by death, so it’s probably best to tread *very* carefully,” journalist Glenn Greenwald responded.
Please be advised that any questioning of US policy or. the prevailing US narrative during this sensitive time constitutes the crime of treason, according to Harvard Law Professor @tribelaw. Treason is punishable by death, so it's probably best to tread *very* carefully. pic.twitter.com/VZHuAqFIlr
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 21, 2022
“This is not the type of ‘aid and comfort’ that would qualify as treason. Please leave these tropes in the past where they belong,” added Adam Steinbaugh, first amendment lawyer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
This is not the type of “aid and comfort” that would qualify as treason. Please leave these tropes in the past where they belong. https://t.co/EEc4JDTN4d
— Adam Steinbaugh (@adamsteinbaugh) February 21, 2022
“Yeah, no. Let us not become the things we’re fighting against, Professor,” wrote Tom Nichols.
Yeah, no. Let us not become the things we're fighting against, Professor. https://t.co/E25olmyhdF
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) February 21, 2022
“Fffs, this is sad and ridiculous,” The Dispatch Editor-in-Chief Jonah Goldberg added.
Fffs, this is sad and ridiculous. https://t.co/E2R792PpU8
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) February 21, 2022
“Please stop, sir,” lawyer Bradley P. Moss tweeted.
Please stop, Sir.
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) February 21, 2022
Tribe later attempted to walk back his comments. “I’m persuaded by those who thought I meant to be using the word ‘treason’ literally — despite my use of the phrase ‘would appear to be’ — that I should’ve been more careful: Because we’re not at war with Russia, treason prosecutions should be off the table. Sorry if I misled you,” he wrote in a tweet later on Monday morning.
Both the original tweet and the follow-up have since been deleted.
Laurence Tribe has now deleted his original tweet as well as his follow-up. pic.twitter.com/hPPZ5cJ49s
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) February 21, 2022
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