Schiff has free speech defense in Trump charge of treason

Cass R. Sunstein, in Bloomberg News, October 2, 2019, argues that President Donald Trump’s Twitter post that Rep Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, should be investigated for fraud and treason shows a “heinous” disregard of the Constitution. The Constitution narrowly defines treason as bringing war against the U.S. or giving “Aid and Comfort” to the country’s enemies. In this narrow definition, writes Sunstein, the founders were protecting dissent and opposition as represented by Schiff’s actions in holding the president accountable.

Trump was reacting to Schiff’s saying that Trump was asking Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to make up dirt on his political opponent when he only asked Zelensky to investigate. In asking for an inquiry on Schiff, Trump will run into the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution that interpreted by the Supreme Court means that members of Congress are immune from questioning and prosecution for legislative activities. The clause goes back to England when the king attempted to prosecute members of parliament for their speech in parliament. Vox, September 30, 2019, by Dylan Matthews)