Fact Check

Is Obama Claiming Kenyan Citizenship to Avoid Being Tried for Treason?

Four wrongs don't add up to anything other than a completely unsubstantiated rumor.

Published Sept. 2, 2019

Former U.S. President Barack Obama is about to claim Kenyan citizenship to avoid being tried for treason by the U.S.

On July 29, 2019, an obscure website called End of the Age Headlines published an article headlined "Obama Will Claim Kenyan Citizenship to Keep from Being Tried for Treason."

That article read (in its entirety) as follows:

LLEGAL COMMANDER IN CHIEF: Barack Obama will soon admit to having been born in Kenya, in an attempt to avoid being prosecuted for treason. It’s already been proven that his birth certificate is a phony. Q has even said that he will claim Kenyan citizenship to keep from being charged for treason. Now, if he claims Kenyan citizenship, that means he was a false president, in which case every decision this man has made is now null and void, including the two Supreme Court justices!

Everything stated in that brief article was incorrect:

  • Obama's birth certificate has not been proved "phony." In fact, it has been verified by the original issuing authority, the Hawaii Department of Health, and that certificate — along with considerable other evidence — documents that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and thus is a native-born citizen of the U.S.
  • Even if Barack Obama were not a native-born citizen of the U.S., and thus was ineligible to hold the office of president of the U.S., no provision in U.S. law exists for retroactively invalidating the actions of a president who improperly attained office.
  • No credible information supports the notion that Obama undertook any particular actions for which he is about to be, or even could be, "tried for treason." Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution very narrowly defines the crime of treason: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” As University of California Davis law Professor Carlton F.W. Larson noted in an article on the subject, under that definition, "Speaking against the government, undermining political opponents, supporting harmful policies or even placing the interests of another nation ahead of those of the United States are not acts of treason under the Constitution."
  • Even if Obama were (about) to be tried for treason and had in fact been born in Kenya (neither of which appears remotely true), his simply claiming Kenyan citizenship at this juncture would not necessarily protect him from the consequences. As Larson noted, the notion that only U.S. citizens can commit treason against the U.S. is a myth: "[T]he offense of treason can be committed by any person who owes allegiance to the United States, and this can include noncitizens. Treason law recognizes two kinds of allegiance: permanent and temporary. U.S. citizens owe permanent allegiance to the United States, and this duty carries with them wherever they go in the world. By contrast, noncitizens in the United States (other than ambassadors and their staffs) owe a duty of temporary allegiance, the Supreme Court found in an 1872 case. While they are within the United States and receiving protection from it, noncitizens are governed by American treason law. If a person on a green card or a student or tourist visa, for example, wages war against the United States or provides aid and comfort to our enemies, he cannot escape a treason prosecution simply by asserting his foreign citizenship."

In fact, the End of the Age Headlines article was cribbed from a piece published by the Right Wing Watch website, which revealed that the "Obama Will Claim Kenyan Citizenship to Keep from Being Tried for Treason" rumor was based on nothing more than wild and unsupported speculation delivered in a YouTube video by a "radical right-wing conspiracy theorist":

During his recent appearance on Tiffany FitzHenry’s YouTube program, radical right-wing conspiracy theorist and so-called “firefighter prophet” Mark Taylor claimed that Barack Obama will soon admit to having been born in Kenya in an attempt to avoid being prosecuted for treason.

“I don’t think the guy is American,” Taylor said. “It’s already been proven that that birth certificate is a phony.”

Taylor insisted that the issue of Obama’s birth certificate is vitally important because it is the key to effectively negating his entire presidency, citing the QAnon conspiracy theory which claims that high-ranking intelligence officials in the Trump administration are leaking information about a secret plan to take down a global network of satanic pedophiles that includes prominent Democratic Party entertainment, political and business figures.


Larson, Carlton F.W.   "Five Myths About Treason.     The Washington Post.   17 February 2017.

Mantyla, Kyle.   "Obama Will Claim Kenyan Citizenship to Keep From Being Tried for Treason."     Right Wing Watch.   16 April 2019.

End of the Age Headlines.   "Obama Will Claim Kenyan Citizenship to Keep from Being Tried for Treason."     29 July 2019.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.