Via Mediaite, Trump shouldn’t take this personally. Undermining Republican presidents on foreign policy while abroad has been Kerry’s life work, both as a young man and an older one. He’s a living, breathing reminder that the Logan Act exists only on paper.
Two interesting things about this. One is that he doesn’t deny the accusation when Dana Perino makes it (he admitted earlier today to having met Iran’s foreign minister “three or four times” since leaving office), deflecting instead by noting that Trump was still a party to the Iran nuclear deal when he met with Iranian diplomats last year. Right, but Trump was signaling since day one of his presidency that he’d jettison the agreement sooner rather than later, likely sooner. There would have been no reason for Kerry to nudge the Iranians not to do anything rash towards Trump if he and they didn’t strongly suspect the country’s relations with the U.S. were about to turn rapidly more adversarial. His non-denial reeks of an admission.
The second point of interest is that he’s been accused of this before, with a different set of diplomats — the Palestinians.
During the conversation, according to the report, Kerry asked [Hussein] Agha to convey a message to [Mahmoud] Abbas and ask him to “hold on and be strong.” Tell him, he told Agha, “that he should stay strong in his spirit and play for time, that he will not break and will not yield to President Trump’s demands.” According to Kerry, Trump will not remain in office for a long time. It was reported that within a year there was a good chance that Trump would not be in the White House.
Kerry offered his help to the Palestinians in an effort to advance the peace process and recommended that Abbas present his own peace plan. “Maybe it is time for the Palestinians to define their peace principles and present a positive plan,” Kerry suggested. He promised to use all his contacts and all his abilities to get support for such a plan. He asked Abbas, through Agha, not to attack the US or the Trump administration, but to concentrate on personal attacks on Trump himself, whom Kerry says is solely and directly responsible for the situation.
Allegedly he told Agha that he himself might be president in 2021 and seated across the negotiation table with Abbas. The Iran and Palestinian situations aren’t perfectly analogous: In the first case Kerry would be urging a foreign power not to engage in hostile action against the United States in response to the new president’s policies whereas in the second he’d be urging a foreign power not to make concessions to the United States in response to the new president’s policies. The best one can do to excuse that would be to shrug and say that adversarial regimes are destined to follow this strategy whether or not Kerry is pushing it on them. They’re not stupid; they follow the news and understand that Trump and the U.S. foreign policy establishment that ostensibly works for him are often at odds. If they keep their powder dry until 2021, it’s quite possible that the establishment will be back in charge and the status quo ante will resume. It’d be insane to reset relations with the U.S. by doing something dramatic before then, whether friendly or hostile, creating a new status quo that would be impossible for a Democratic president to undo three years from now.
But that doesn’t excuse Kerry for whispering in their ears anyway, against the interests of the current administration. It’s been said often since the Woodward book dropped and the NYT op-ed was published that Trump’s government has two tracks, with his populist agenda penned in by a more traditional centrist Republican bureaucracy. If it’s true that Kerry — and others? — are chattering to foreign powers, though, then it’s really more like three tracks. There’s Trump’s administration, there’s the “shadow” Republican administration, and there’s a “shadow” Democratic administration that’s supposedly going to be swept back into power in 2020 and right all these alleged wrongs.
The Iran bit comes at 3:37 here, part of a longer but interesting interview. Dana Perino peppers him at the end with a variety of current Democratic hobbyhorses. Abolish ICE? No thanks, says Kerry. Impeachment? Nah. Medicare for all? An interesting idea but why not stick with a public/private hybrid like ObamaCare? All the Dems of yesteryear whom righties disliked are moderates now.