Shhhhhh. You had me at “John Kerry should be prosecuted.”
The news cycle moves so quickly in the Trump era that not only is my attention span down to six seconds but in the rush to keep up with major stories I’m apt to miss things like the president calling on Twitter for a former Secretary of State to be prosecuted for undermining his foreign policy. That happened a few weeks ago, in late April. Trump doubled down on it today during a media availability:
President Trump on Iran: "I'd like them to call me. You know, John Kerry speaks to them a lot. @JohnKerry tells them not to call. That's a violation of the Logan Act. And, frankly, he should be prosecuted on that." pic.twitter.com/Y145xDnb3g
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 9, 2019
I wrote three separate posts about this last September, when Kerry admitted that he’d met with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, “three or four times” since after leaving office. There’s nothing inherently suspicious about ex-diplomats meeting with current diplomats but Kerry/Zarif meetings are noteworthy since they were the two main brokers of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. And although Trump was still abiding by the nuclear deal at the time Kerry met with Zarif, it was common knowledge that that status quo wouldn’t last forever. Kerry was asked on Fox News in September whether he had told Zarif to wait Trump out. His answer: “I think everybody in the world is talking about waiting out President Trump.”
Here’s the Logan Act:
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
The point of tearing up the nuclear deal and reinstating sanctions on Iran is to pressure Khamenei into agreeing to terms more favorable to the United States. Total denuclearization, ideally. Lefties would tell you Trump’s goal is war war war but as you can see in the clip, he’s basically dangling North-Korea-style rapprochement at them. Call me, he says. Let’s work something out. If Kerry’s whispering in Zarif’s ear that he should wait Trump out and hold on for a Democratic successor in 2021, at which point the Obama nuclear deal might be reinstated and sanctions lifted, then why shouldn’t Zarif continue to resist Trump’s pressure tactics?
He’s undermining Trump’s leverage. Working to “defeat the measures of the United States,” to borrow a phrase. And this isn’t the first time he’s been accused of doing that since “retiring.”
He won’t be prosecuted, though, partly because no one gets prosecuted under the Logan Act. It gets tossed around whenever a political enemy gets caught talking to foreign diplomats — some lefties wanted Mike Flynn charged under it for his phone chats with the Russian ambassador before becoming NSA — but literally no one has been convicted of the offense, which is why even some conservatives think it’s time to repeal it. Certainly Dan McLaughlin is right that the statute could be abused potentially by prosecuting political opponents whose behavior was less dubious than Kerry’s. Pay close attention to Trump’s answer in the clip, though, and you’ll hear him say that his “people” don’t want to charge Kerry — implying that the subject *has* come up, presumably at the president’s urging. Is this what Bill Barr had in mind last week when Kamala Harris asked him if the president had ever “suggested” that the DOJ open an investigation on someone and Barr suddenly turned evasive? How many other people has POTUS proposed prosecuting?