Monthly Archives: July 2017

WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Lansing

WMU-Cooley Law School’s Lansing campus honored students for their leadership roles with various student organizations, achieving academic excellence and being named to the Dean’s List or Honor Roll at the Honors Convocation on Friday, July 21.

Award winner Luciana Viramontes

Luciana Viramontes holds the Alumni Distinguished Student Award she received during the WMU-Cooley Law School Honors Convocation in Lansing on July 21.

Luciana Viramontes was honored with the Alumni Distinguished Student Award, which is given based upon academic accomplishment, demonstrated leadership, extra-curricular activities and post-graduation plans.

In addition to the Alumni Distinguished Student Award, Viramontes was acknowledged by Scribes (the American Society of Legal Writers) for her professionalism and legal writing skills, received the Student Bar Association Distinguished Student Award, and was presented with the Leadership Achievement Award.

Along with Viramontes, classmates Charell Elliott and Brittanie Pope were also honored with the Leadership Achievement Award, which acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

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WMU-Cooley Faculty Member Honored as one of 2017 Women in the Law

WMU-Cooley Law School Director of Academic Services and Associate Professor Emily Horvath was chosen by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as one of its 2017 Women in the Law. Each year, the Women in the Law program honors 30 high-achieving women lawyers in Michigan and their accomplishments.

Associate Professor Emily Horvath

Emily Horvath

Horvath joined WMU-Cooley Law School faculty in 2005. In addition to teaching Wills, Estates & Trusts at the law school, Horvath also serves as the director of Academic Services, where she works with students and faculty to develop programming to improve student success on the bar exam. In 2014, she received the distinction, Most Outstanding Professor of the Fraternity in the Nation, from Delta Theta Phi, International Law Fraternity.

Horvath is an advocate for human rights. She has served as co-chair of Michigan Pride to plan and execute the annual Statewide Pride March, Rally & Festival for LGBT rights. She also has served as president and chair of “Ways & Means” of the Zonta Club East Lansing Area (ZCELA), a group of individuals dedicated to improving the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women at the global and local level through service and advocacy.

Michigan Lawyers Weekly selected Professor Horvath not only because of her commitment to the legal profession, but for her commitment to helping the community at large,” said Christine Church, WMU-Cooley associate dean of academic programs.  “She is well deserving of this honor and we are proud of her accomplishments at the law school and beyond.”

Before joining WMU-Cooley as a faculty member, Horvath was an associate attorney with the firm of White, Schneider, Young & Chiodini, P.C. In this position, she developed an estate planning practice for the 13-member law firm, including planning for young families, domestic partners and estate tax avoidance. Her legal career began in 1999 at the firm of Willingham & Coté, P.C., first as a paralegal, and later as an associate attorney.

In addition to Horvath, WMU-Cooley Law School graduates Susan Cook, Laura Genovich, Mary Pigorsh, Sarah Ostahowski and Cinnamon Rice have also been selected as members of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s  2017 class of Women in the Law for their work in the legal profession.

Cook is a partner at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP with more than 35 years of experience in the areas of bankruptcy, business reorganization, commercial litigation and business transactions. Genovich, a shareholder of Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC, practices municipal and commercial law in the firm’s Grand Rapids office. Pigorsh practices family law and domestic relations with Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge. Ostahowski owns Sarah’s Law Firm, which offers services in estate planning, and probate and estate administration. Rice is a shareholder at the law firm of Zausmer, August & Caldwell PC. She handles civil litigation matters, including first-party no-fault and third-party automobile negligence claims, premises liability, construction accidents, fraud and insurance coverage disputes.

A luncheon celebrating the Class of 2017 Women in the Law will be held Thursday, Sept. 7 at the Detroit Marriott Troy. The Woman of the Year, selected by a vote of the class, will be announced at the event.

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Attorney Choi T. Portis Honored with the Barristers President’s Award from the Detroit Bar Association

WMU-Cooley Law School graduate Choi T. Portis has been selected by the Detroit Bar Association as this year’s winner of the Barristers President’s Award, which recognizes a young attorney whose early career has exhibited high standards of service to the profession, his or her clients and the public. Portis, associate general counsel for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, was presented the award during the Detroit Bar Association’s Summer Breeze event on July 19, 2017 at the Detroit Yacht Club.

Jim Robb and Choi Portis

WMU-Cooley Law School Associate Dean of External Affairs and General Counsel James Robb presents WMU-Cooley graduate Choi T. Portis with the Detroit Bar Association Barristers President’s Award. Portis was selected by the Detroit Bar Association as this year’s winner of the Barristers President’s Award.

“I was honored to present the Detroit Bar Association Barristers President’s Award to a woman who has made her law school proud by already distinguishing herself as a leader in our profession,” said James Robb, WMU-Cooley Law School associate dean of external affairs and general counsel. “In the legal community, leadership requires professional excellence, of course, but it also requires responsible participation in the organized bar and meaningful participation in service to our communities. Choi has exemplified each of these requirements. Through her outstanding work as Associate General Counsel of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department and in her prior work representing abused children and handling corporate transactions, Choi demonstrates superb legal skills.”

In her position with the Water and Sewage Department, Portis handles in-house litigation, internal personal injury and property damage claims, damage claim appeals, billing disputes and contract review. She also serves as counsel to the department director regarding various legal issues, serves on the Damage Claims Appeals committee and supervises the department’s Environmental and Safety team.

In addition to her work with the city of Detroit, in February, Portis started Portis Legal, PLC, a small solo firm designed to provide low-cost, transactional legal services to clients. She primarily focuses on business entity formation, contract formation and review, but also offers copyright and trademark registration services as well.

Portis is an executive council member of the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section, and serves on the organization’s Diversity Committee. She is also the district representative for the state of Michigan, and a vice director of Diversity and Inclusion for the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. Portis serves as a mentor to many, tutoring bar candidates through the Wolverine Bar Association Minority Bar Passage Program. She was recently honored as a member of the Michigan Chronicle’s “40 Under 40 Class of 2017.”

 Portis is admitted to practice in the State of Michigan and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She earned her J.D. from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

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WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Grand Rapids

WMU-Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus honored students for their leadership roles with various student organizations and for achieving academic excellence by receiving Certificate of Merit for the highest scores in classes and being named to the Dean’s List or Honor Roll at the Honors Convocation on Monday, July 17, 2017.

Shane Henry

Shane Henry

Shane Henry received the Dawn C. Beachnau Award. The award recognizes the member of the WMU-Cooley Law Review Board of Editors who has made the most significant contribution through leadership and dedication to the Law Review.

Jada Manggrum received the Leadership Achievement Award, which acknowledges a student who has consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Jada Manggrum

Jada Manggrum

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WMU-Cooley’s Lansing Campus to Host Seminar on Marijuana Laws

Law students and lawyers will gather at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Lansing campus to review and discuss legal aspects of current marijuana laws on Thursday, July 27 during a seminar co-hosted by WMU-Cooley Law School and the State Bar of Michigan’s Solo and Small Firm Section. The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. in the Cooley Center.

The seminar will feature a diverse panel of legal experts including Mary Chartier, criminal defense litigator and partner, Chartier & Nyamfukudza, P.L.C.; Robert Hendricks, business attorney, Wrigley, Hoffman & Hendricks, P.C.; and Mike Nichols, trial attorney, Nichols Law Firm, PLLC.

Mary Chartier is a criminal defense litigator and partner at Chartier & Nyamfukudza, P.L.C., with offices in Lansing and Grand Rapids. She practices in courts throughout the state and in federal court. Chartier is a member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National College of DUI Defense. She is also the Appellate Unit chairperson of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys, chairperson of the Ingham County Bar Association’s Criminal Defense Section, vice chairperson of the State Bar of Michigan’s Marijuana Law Section, and vice chairperson of the Ingham County Bar Association. Chartier has taught at WMU-Cooley Law School for over 10 years, including teaching the nation’s first medical marijuana class. She has presented at numerous nationwide and state conferences on topics related to criminal defense, including at conferences organized by the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, Michigan Judges Association, State Bar of Michigan, National College for DUI Defense and the Institute for Continuing Legal Education.

Robert Hendricks is a business attorney at Wrigley, Hoffman & Hendricks, P.C. in Grand Rapids where he has practiced since 1984. In response to Michigan’s movement toward legalized marijuana, he and his partners developed a marijuana business practice called CannalexLaw. Hendricks is a member and officer of the State Bar of Michigan’s Marijuana Law Section and the National Cannabis Bar Association. Hendricks speaks regularly on marijuana and business including to the Food and Drug Law Institute, the Michigan Township Association, ICLE, the Public Corporation Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, various business sections of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and to the Law & Justice Committee of the Michigan House of Representatives.

Mike Nichols is a nationally recognized trial attorney in the area of drunk driving and drugged driving defense. He is the author of the Michigan OWI Handbook for West Publishing. He is a professor of drunk driving law and practice at WMU-Cooley Law School. Nichols also authors several publications for organizations including the National College for DUI Defense. He is on the Controlled Substance Benchbook Committee for the Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrator’s Office, which publishes reference materials for Michigan judges. Nichols is a faculty member for the National College for DUI Defense and a founding member of the DUI Defense Lawyers of America and the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys. Nichols is on the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) Body Cam Task Force, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan Rules and Laws Committee and the State Bar of Michigan Criminal Law Section Council and the SBM Task Force on 21st Century Law Practice.

 The seminar is open and free to law students who register for the event by July 24. Registration is available at e.michbar.org, or by contacting Elizabeth Silverman at 248-538-1177 and costs $20 for Solo & Small Firm Section members or $25 for non-members

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WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Auburn Hills

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus held its Honors Convocation recognizing students for top course grades, Dean’s List, Honor Roll, and leadership and skills competition achievements.

The recipients of the Leadership Achievement Award were Eric Langton and Erika Morgan. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Leadership Award winners

Leadership Achievement Award recipients Erika Morgan and Eric Langton hold the awards during WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills Honors Convocation on July 13.

During the event, WMU-Cooley Associate Professor Frank Aiello was presented the Distinguished Faculty Award.

Aiello, who presented the evening’s keynote, spoke to students, staff and faculty about what he has learned over the years, and reflected on the intersection of his personal and work life. He offered what he referred to as “quasi-wisdom,” encouraging students to be kind, speak less, listen more and utilize their strengths.

“Having now taught here for almost 12 years, I have the pleasure of observing many incredible WMU-Cooley alumni who are doing amazing things — lead counsel to the police and fire unions in the Detroit bankruptcy, representing famous Detroit musical artists, working on behalf of the disadvantaged at legal aid organizations, incredible prosecutors and defense attorneys and wildly successful civil litigators,” Aiello said. “I am humbled by the accomplishments of my former students and can’t wait to see what you do.”

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Lynn Helland Honored with WMU-Cooley Law School’s Integrity Award

Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission was the featured speaker and Integrity Award recipient during the “Integrity in Our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus, July 14, 2017. The Integrity Award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession. The event was co-hosted by the law school’s newest student organization, the Society for Personal and Professional Integrity.

Speakers at Integrity event

Pictured (left-right) Patrick Corbett, assistant U.S. attorney and WMU-Cooley Law School visiting professor; Joan Vestrand, WMU-Cooley Law School associate dean; Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission; and Alan Gershel, attorney grievance administrator during the “Integrity in our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus on July 14.

Alan Gershel, past recipient of the Integrity Award, former U.S. attorney  and current Michigan attorney  grievance administrator, who worked with Helland on a number of cases while each were employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, provided Helland’s introductory remarks.

“We often said that a measure of a prosecutor’s integrity is not what he or she does in public, in a courtroom, when people are watching, when it’s easy to make the right decision,” said Gershel. “The more difficult times really occur when no one is looking, when the lights are not on, so to speak. Lynn was the gold standard. He led by example. He always did the right thing.”

Integrity Award winner

Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, was the featured speaker and received the Integrity Award during WMU-Cooley Law School’s “Integrity in Our Community” speaker series on July 14 at the law school’s Auburn Hills campus.

Helland’s presentation was on the topic of personal integrity, and spoke about how individual integrity can influence the community at large.

“None of us think that our integrity is responsible for that overall level of national trust, but it is. Each contribution we make, for better or for worse, has an impact on the whole,” Helland said.

Helland identified and discussed two types of integrity: moral integrity and integrity of thought. He spoke of the importance of remaining objective and honest. He also emphasized the challenges of having integrity, citing brain research that he said shows people are wired so that they handle information that undercuts their beliefs by disregarding or discounting that information.

“For the good of all our communities, I encourage all of us to embrace both moral integrity and thinking integrity. We all want to do that, you already said that, but I encourage you also to recognize how hard it is, and to embrace how hard it is and to try to work through how hard it is,” Helland said.

Group at integrity event

Pictured (left-right) Helen Khouli, president of the Society for Personal and Professional Integrity; Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission; and Alan Gershel, attorney grievance administrator during the “Integrity in our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus on July 14.

Before Helland was appointed to serve as executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, he served as assistant United States attorney. Helland has significant experience with Michigan legal ethics as a professional responsibility officer, discipline hearing panelist and ethics instructor. He has been responsible for helping colleagues comply with the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct.

During Helland’s 34 years as a federal prosecutor, he was assigned to complex crimes involving public corruption, health care fraud, national security and civil rights. He has investigated complex economic, environmental and non-drug money laundering crimes. In addition, he has worked internationally within legal systems to obtain documents and/or testimony for prosecution of complex economic crimes. Helland also served as senior legal adviser for the United States Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Helland served as law clerk to the Honorable Cornelia Kennedy, who was on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His community involvement includes serving as a board member for Save the Afghan Children, a charity that supports a girls’ orphanage and school in Kabul, Afghanistan; was a board member for Veahavta, a charity that supports a girls’ orphanage in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka; served as a board member and president, Parent’s Association, Oak Trails Montessori School; and has participated in humanitarian trips to Sri Lanka and Haiti.

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WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Florida

On Wednesday, July 12, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus held its Honors Convocation recognizing students for top course grades, Dean’s List, Honor Roll, and leadership and skills competition achievements.

Sheila Lake received the Alumni Distinguished Student Award for her academic success, professionalism, and participation and leadership in student organizations.

Lake also won a Leadership Achievement Award, along with classmates David Lee and Selena Neal. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Selena Neal with award

Selena Neal

Sheila Lake with award

Sheila Lake

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WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids Campus to Host Panel Discussion on Human Trafficking in Michigan

“You Don’t Own Me: Perspectives on Human Trafficking” will be the topic of discussion at Western Michigan University Cooley Law Schools’ Grand Rapids campus on Wednesday, July 19. The free event is open to the public and will feature a diverse panel of community leaders who will discuss the issue of human trafficking and its impact on west Michigan communities.

Chris Johnson

E. Christopher Johnson

Panelists include Carmen L Kucinich, victim specialist, FBI; Andy Soper, owner, Five Arrows Consulting; Christopher Johnson, Jr., CEO and co-founder, Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity; Jodi Dibble, police officer, city of Muskegon Police Department.

Carmen Kucinich is a master’s level licensed professional counselor with the state of Michigan. Kucinich has been a victim specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 2005 and has worked with crime victims for over 18 years.  Prior to the FBI, she was a caseworker with the Michigan Indian Child Welfare Agency. She then worked for Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center as a forensic interviewer and therapist for sexually abused children and children who witnessed domestic violence.

Carmen Kucinich

Carmen Kucinich

Kucinich has testified as an expert witness in the areas of the Native American culture, forensic interviewing and children’s counseling. She is active in working on the FBI’s West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force, formed in 2014, and is one of the original members of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force since 2007. Kucinich has also had the opportunity to provide interviews with local media stations, and participated in the premiere episode of the “Mutually Inclusive” television program.

Having worked with severely traumatized youth for 10 years in residential and community forums, Andy Soper founded the Manasseh Project in 2011 and opened the first human trafficking victims’ shelter in Michigan for minors. After years of advocating for victims and working with professionals to improve treatment and legislation, Soper also helped to open HQ – Grand Rapids’ Runaway and Homeless Youth Drop-In Center in 2014. He is now the owner of Five Arrows Consulting.

Andy Soper

Andy Soper

Christopher Johnson, Jr. and his wife Rhonda were exposed to the injustice, enormity and brutality of human trafficking during a 2011 mission trip with NorthRidge Church to Mumbai, India. They felt called by God to join the anti-human trafficking movement, and together, they co-founded the Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity. The organization is committed to advancing the cause of justice and securing human and civil rights for all who are denied human dignity, especially those victimized by modern day slavery.

Johnson started his legal career in 1981 with a New York law firm. In 1988, he accepted the role as General Motors’ sole attorney handling computer law matters, as well as one of GM’s purchasing lawyers. He rose through the ranks and ultimately became the GM North America vice president and general counsel. After his 2008 retirement from GM, Johnson joined the faculty at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where he served as a law professor and director/founder of the LL.M. program in Corporate Law and Finance until 2013 when he moved to adjunct status to focus his efforts on human trafficking issues.

Jodi Dibble has worked for the city of Muskegon Police Department as a police officer for 22 years. Dibble became involved in advocating against human trafficking when she learned that her niece (now her adopted daughter) was sex-trafficked at the age of 10. After attending a human trafficking conference hosted by the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, she became empowered to raise awareness of the issue.

Dibble is now the vice president of the board and training coordinator for the Hope Project, an outreach program to educate and inform the community about the issue of human trafficking. Dibble is also the chair of the Lakeshore Human Trafficking Task Force. She was the investigating officer on the first prosecuted case of human trafficking in Muskegon County, and also developed the Sex Offender Registry Violation Program at the Muskegon Police Department.

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Did Trump Junior Commit Treason? Don’t Bet On It – Or Against It

WMU-Cooley Law Professor Brendan Beery

Blog author, Constitutional Law expert and WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery  gives expert analysis surrounding media coverage regarding whether or not Donald Trump, Jr. committed treason. Professor Beery is a summa cum laude graduate of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure. Professor Beery is a frequent legal expert in the media.

Until now, some pundits were hesitant to throw around the “C word” when discussing the Trump team’s seeming fetish for raw Russian power. That word was collusion. But the days when that word, and its attendant whiff of impossible scandal, were deemed hysterical or preposterous – well, those days, like the Biblical former world, have passed away.

The email exchange between Donald Trump, Jr. and a portly intermediary named Rob Goldstone proves that the Trump campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. To collude means to conspire (not necessarily in the legal sense), which in turn means to act in concert for the accomplishment of some improper purpose. As is the case with conspiring (even in the legal sense), colluding does not mean successfully executing some diabolical plan; it just means working together to try.

So the goalpost has moved. We’re on to the “T word.” Now the question isn’t whether Trump Jr. (and by extension the whole Trump operation) colluded, but whether Trump Jr. (or others similarly situated) committed treason. (Actually this is just one of many questions about many possible crimes, but since it’s in the ether, I want to focus on this one.) It’s way too soon to say that Trump Jr. did commit treason, and there are many voices out there screeching that he didn’t. (Jonathan Turley and Jeffrey Toobin, I’m looking at you.)

What I’d like to point out is that, just as it’s far too early to say that Trump Jr. did commit treason, it’s also a bit silly to have already concluded that he did not.

In the United States, treason is defined in the Constitution itself, not just a mere statute. Article III provides that treason “shall consist only in levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” (A federal statute, which can’t change the standard, merely parrots it: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason …” 18 USC 2381.)

The two most important words in all of the law are and and or. Those words signal the relationships between ideas or elements, telling advocates whether they must show one thing, every item on a list of things, or some combination of things. We see that our Constitution’s definition of treason has an or in it – as well as at least one and.

Treason can consist either of waging war against the US or adhering to enemies of the US, giving them aid and comfort. As to the comma in that last sentence, let’s read that as an and, too (that’s the reading most favorable to Junior). That seems a fair reading; were a parent to tell a child, “You must get to bed, giving yourself plenty of rest,” that comma before giving certainly means and, not or – you should go to bed and get rest, not you should go to bed or get rest.

So we can represent treason, quasi-mathematically, this way: You commit treason if you

Levy + War + Against the United States

-or-

Adhere + To enemies of the US + Give those enemies (Aid + Comfort)

Let’s assume that, even though Trump Jr. might have participated in an attack on American democracy, he did not in any literal sense levy war against the United States. That leaves us with the question whether he adhered to an enemy of the US and gave that enemy aid and comfort.

Adhere

To adhere is to stick to or bind oneself to something. It can also mean to follow, as when one adheres to a religious belief. So the question would be whether Trump Jr. joined with or bound himself to something else – in this case, Russia (or Russians). It seems clear from his emails that he did join together with a foreign national to further a common purpose: the defeat of Hillary Clinton facilitated by Russian intelligence that, in all likelihood, would have been obtained through espionage. I note here how unlikely it is that Special Counsel Bob Mueller is going to believe Trump Jr.’s story that no ill-gotten information actually changed hands at the not-so-clandestine meeting. If this joining together turns out to have happened (in a way that is legally provable), then Trump Jr. seems to have adhered. On the other hand, if adhere means come under the spell of some anti-American orthodoxy (again, as in religious adherence), then we seem a long way from treason in this case.

Enemy of the United States

It’s true that when we talk about enemies of the US, we usually (historically) mean a country against whom we are engaged in a hot war. But the term “enemy” is not defined in the Constitution, and like most of the Constitution’s words, “enemy” is a broad and flexible term that should be interpreted in light of evolving realities. (Yes, the organic “living Constitution” view is the correct one, and “originalism” is highly suspect.) Many pols, lawyers, and national-security experts have claimed, with good reason, that what Russia did to the United States during the 2016 election cycle was nothing short of an act of war – not in the conventional sense, but in the sense that it involved key elements of war: an attack combined with the intent to achieve dominance over the United States by causing American institutions to malfunction and, ultimately, collapse. By that standard, Russia could be an enemy of the United States.

Giving Aid and Comfort

This term – aid and comfort – has always been broadly understood to mean nothing more than tangible help or assistance. The Russians had multiple objectives: to see the defeat of Hillary Clinton; to accomplish that end by employing espionage and subterfuge; to cause chaos in American politics; and to install an American government so compromised by Russian mischief as to be an extension of Vladimir Putin’s will. Trump Jr.’s emails arguably show that he was anxious to (and by accommodating the meeting request, actually endeavored to) help the Russians achieve those objectives. Critically, we don’t yet know the full extent of the Trump team’s efforts to help the Russians. Obviously, the deeper those efforts went, the stronger the case for treason becomes. We also don’t yet know the extent to which President Trump is compromised (his tax returns sure would help in that regard). The more compromised he is, the more likely it is that he and his family would have played along; the more likely it is that they would have provided aid and comfort.

Conclusion

One common misperception about treason, and one I’ve heard repeatedly recently, is that it requires a war and adherence and an enemy and the provision of aid and comfort. That’s not what the Constitution says, and it ignores the meaning of the word or: treason can be committed either by levying war or by acting in concert with an enemy to help that enemy attack the United States.

Without knowing about all the Trump team’s financial and other dealings with Russian officials, many of which are likely still to be discovered, it’s hard to say whether there was enough entanglement, symbiosis, and subversive conduct to rise to the level of treason. It would be absurd to conclude one way or the other at this point, but it is certainly not absurd, as talking-head thought police keep telling us, to discuss the possibility of treason and argue one side or the other. As long as we keep our focus on the standards discussed above, debate about the issue is both fair and healthy. File it under “civics 101” — the more we engage about constitutional issues, the better.

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