Kerry is personally invested in the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), from which President Trump walked away. The wisdom of Trump’s action is open to debate, but what is not is this: Trump won the 2016 election. He made clear during his campaign that he opposed the JCPOA, just like Obama made clear during his campaign that he supported outreach to Iran. There was no deception on either man’s part. And Trump’s decision to walk away from the JCPOA is not illegal. Julie Frifield, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under Kerry, acknowledged the JCPOA was unsigned and “neither a treaty nor an executive agreement.” In other words, it had the same status as the Bush-era agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland for anti-missile defenses which Obama voided when he came to office.
There has been a temptation among polemicists on both the Right and Left to criminalize the policy debate, and this is unfortunate. But that does not mean anyone should get a free pass for what appears to be criminal activity. If Kerry wants to criticize Trump for walking away from the JCPOA, he is free to do so. And if he wants to plot and plan with Zarif, he can register as a foreign agent on behalf of Iran. But he should not remain above the law. To allow him to do so sets a horrible precedent for any future administration, for American democracy, and for coherence of U.S. policy. It is time both Kerry and the Justice Department understood that.