If a President-elect was proven to have colluded with Foreign operatives to interfere with our presidential election, could he or she be charged with treason?

What we know:

TREASON. 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 and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

ENEMY OF THE STATE: According to 50 USCS § 2204 [Title 50. War and National Defense; Chapter 39. Spoils of War], "enemy of the United States" means:

any country, government, group, or person that has been engaged in hostilities, whether or not lawfully authorized, with the United States; (3) the term "person" means (A) any natural person; (B) any corporation, partnership, or other legal entity; and (C) any organization, association, or group.

But what is the legal definition of hostilities? Must it include a declaration of war? Much could be parsed and debated but I'm not at all sure he could actually be charged, even if it's proven he colluded.

What say ye??

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    Maybe I worded this inarticulately. Would a presidential candidate colluding with a foreign government to interfere in a presidential election constitute treason? I am. not asking for or giving any opinion as to whether this has happened in our current election. I do not want to debate. I want opinions on what constitutes treason.
    – Lynn
    Dec 31, 2016 at 4:32
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    Charging someone with treason is a legal process, not a political one. Explaining laws is the job of law stackexchange, so I am migrating it to law stackexchange.
    – Philipp
    Jan 3, 2017 at 9:49
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    "Enemy of the United States" under the Constitution's treason clause does not necessarily mean the same thing as "enemy of the United States" under the spoils of war statute. When a law defines a term, that definition normally only applies to that law.
    – cpast
    Jan 3, 2017 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


Collusion is a crime when it relates to business, as in antitrust and price fixing. Since collusion is politics is not a crime what is the crime being investigated? The President can't be charged with a non-crime can he?

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    No, but he can be impeached and removed from office for acting improperly whether the improper act is criminal or not, as long as the requisite number of representatives and senators vote for the impeachment and removal from office.
    – phoog
    May 24, 2017 at 15:07
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    He can be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors as specified in the U.S. Constitution, not for "acting improperly" whatever that means.
    – Rick
    May 24, 2017 at 16:33
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    But the point is that "high crimes and misdemeanors" arguably includes abuse of office, which need not be criminal, and, more pertinently, that it is the unreviewable power of congress to determine whether an officer has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," so basically that phrase means whatever congress wants it to mean at the time of their votes.
    – phoog
    May 24, 2017 at 16:42
  • And then the question comes to mind, can the President be impeached for something that might have happened before he was elected? The question of collusion is did it happen between his campaign and the Russians, before the election not after he was elected.
    – Rick
    May 24, 2017 at 23:14
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    And the answer is the same: the president can be impeached and removed for anything that enough people vote for. The only value of an argument like "it happened before I took office" is that it might dissuade some representatives or senators for voting in favor of impeachment or removal.
    – phoog
    May 25, 2017 at 3:01

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