Despite Accusations from Dems, No Jan. 6 Protesters Have Been Charged with Treason or Sedition


Remember that talk about charging participants in the Capitol incursion with treason or sedition? Yeah, so about that.

It hasn’t been happening. It was never going to happen.

Despite President Joe Biden’s administration being determined to treat the events of Jan. 6 as an existential threat to our democracy, one that needed to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and then some, not a single charge of treason or sedition has been levied against the 500-plus people thus far charged, according to a Tuesday report from The Associated Press.

And boy, did the world’s premier wire service seem awfully steamed about this.

“Plotted to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory: Check. Discussed bringing weapons into Washington to aid in the plan: Check. Succeeded with co-insurrectionists, if only temporarily, in stopping Congress from carrying out a vital constitutional duty: Check,” the report began.

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“Accusations against Jan. 6 rioter Thomas Caldwell certainly seem to fit the charge of sedition as it’s generally understood — inciting revolt against the government. And the possibility of charging him and others was widely discussed after thousands of pro-Trump supporters assaulted scores of police officers, defaced the U.S. Capitol and hunted for lawmakers to stop the certification. Some called their actions treasonous.

“But to date, neither Caldwell nor any of the other more than 500 defendants accused in the attack has been indicted for sedition or for the gravest of crimes a citizen can face, treason. And as an increasing number of lesser charges are filed and defendants plead guilty, those accusations may never be formally levied.”

“Some legal scholars” believe the sedition charge may be warranted, AP writer Michael Tarm noted. By that logic, though, some don’t — and given the history of the sedition charge, it’d be a difficult landing to stick.

The last time it was even brought was against Michigan members of the Hutaree militia, a group of Christian extremists, back in 2010.

Should those involved in the Capitol incursion be charged with sedition?

Prosecutors alleged members of the group planned to incite an uprising against the government. In 2012, the judge ordered the defendants to be acquitted on the charge on the basis that the prosecution’s case relied on constitutionally protected speech and not an actual plot to rebel. According to Reuters, two men later pleaded guilty to weapons charges and were sentenced to time served.

The last successful sedition charge, meanwhile, was in 1954, when Puerto Rican nationalists shot five representatives on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Treason is even more difficult to prove and hasn’t resulted in a conviction since shortly after World War II. (The woman convicted — Iva Toguri D’Aquino, an American-born woman whose anti-American broadcasts on Japanese radio earned her the sobriquet “Tokyo Rose” — was pardoned in 1977 after it was learned authorities pressured witnesses in the case to lie.)

Fewer than 10 people have been convicted of the crime of treason, which is constitutionally defined as “levying war” against the United States or “giving aid and comfort” to its enemies.

Sedition has a somewhat lower bar:

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“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

In an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” in March, Michael Sherwin — the federal prosecutor who had been leading the criminal investigation into the Capitol incursion — said he believed charges for sedition would be forthcoming.

“I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that,” Sherwin said.

That hasn’t materialized. The most common charges, according to The Daily Wire, include “entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds,” “disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds,” “engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds,” “disorderly conduct in a Capitol building” and “assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers.”

And yet, look what we were told by politicians, members of the establishment media and even the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for instance, said then-President Donald Trump had “incited an armed insurrection against America” and was “inciting sedition.” By that logic, then, what took place was sedition and an armed insurrection against America.

Van Jones, a CNN commentator, lawyer and former Obama administration official, said the Capitol incursion was “treason,” “insurrection” and “rebellion.” Those aren’t just words — they’re grave legal offenses with discrete definitions.

The military wasn’t immune, either. According to NBC News, Gen. Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the events of Jan. 6 “sedition and insurrection” in a memo circulated after the incursion.

And it continues.

Last week, political pundit Matthew Dowd said that “though there was less loss of life on Jan. 6th, Jan. 6th was worse than 9/11 because it’s continued to rip our country apart and give permission for people to pursue autocratic means.”

It’s worse, in other words, than a murderous act of war perpetrated against the United States.

This sound and fury apparently signifies nothing more than minor charges, at least compared with sedition and treason.

It’s almost as if the “insurrection” that happened on Jan. 6 wasn’t an insurrection at all.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture