President Trump has accused former Secretary of State John Kerry of breaking the law by meeting with Iranian officials last year.
Trump told reporters, “You know John Kerry speaks to them a lot, and John Kerry tells them not to call. That’s a violation of the Logan Act, and frankly, he should be prosecuted on that. But my people don’t want to do anything; only the Democrats do that kind of stuff. If it were the opposite way, they’d prosecute him under the Logan Act.”
The Logan Act, enacted in 1799, criminalizes negotiation by unauthorized persons with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. The intent behind the Act is to prevent unofficial negotiations from undermining the government’s position.
During interviews to promote his new book last past September, Kerry said that he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif three or four times since leaving his Foggy Bottom office, and that their talks touched on the international nuclear agreement which Kerry negotiated and President Trump withdrew from. In other words, his talks were contradictory to the stated policy of the United States.
Then a few weeks ago, the Boston Globe reported that Kerry also met secretly with the Iranian foreign minister and European leaders, advising them on how to save the flawed JCPOA.
As an American citizen, John Kerry is free to state his opinion about American policy at any time, to any person, no matter how negative his judgment may be. However, when he meets with an ambassador to an enemy state to advise them on circumventing American foreign policy, it becomes a violation of the law.
During a press conference on Sept. 14, 2018, Secretary of State Pompeo was asked whether he thought Kerry’s Iran meetings were a violation of the Logan Act. He refused to get into it, but certainly felt the meetings were not kosher.
“I’ll leave the legal determinations to others. But what Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented. This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and according to him — right? You don’t have to take my word for it. He — these are his answers. He was talking to them. He was telling them to wait out this administration.
“You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history, and the secretary ought not — Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior. It’s inconsistent with what foreign policy of the United States is, as directed by this President, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged in this. I remember, I saw him. I saw him in Munich at the Security Conference. He was there with — if I have my facts right because I think I saw them all with my own eyes — Secretary Moniz and Wendy Sherman, the troika [Kerry, Moniz, and Sherman were the negotiating team on the Iran deal].
“I wasn’t in the meeting, but I am reasonably confident that he was not there in support of U.S. policy concerning the Islamic Republic of Iran, who this week fired Katyusha rockets toward the United States embassy in Baghdad and took action against our consulate in Basra.”
Last Friday, Pompeo was less diplomatic. Appearing on Fox Radio’s Guy Benson program, he said, “It is a historical and completely unhelpful when previous secretaries of state are continuing to engage in the tasks that they engaged in when they were the secretary of state. I’ll leave it at that in the sense of it’s time to get off the stage for the previous administration.”
The Boston Globe reported, citing unidentified sources, that Kerry also consulted with key European members of the P5+1 team. The Globe reported that Kerry also met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, he’s been on the phone with top European Union official Federica Mogherini, and he has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York, conversing on ways to save a deal that President Trump was about to leave.
America’s Iran policies do not provide the only examples of John Kerry going rogue and working against American foreign policy.
In 1985, Senator John Kerry traveled to Nicaragua for a friendly get-together with the Sandinista president, Daniel Ortega. The position of the Reagan administration was to support Ortega’s opposition, the Contras. Upon his return to the United States, Kerry met with Reagan to convey a message from Ortega. Reagan “wasn’t thrilled,” Kerry later told the New York Times.
In 2006, Kerry went to Syria to meet with Assad, over the objections of President Bush, who was trying to isolate the Syrian despot.
And in an incident reported in the Jan. 31, 2018 edition of The Jewish Star, Kerry also went against America’s interests in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, meeting in London with a close associate of Abbas, Hussein Agha, for what was described as a “long and open conversation that contained many headlines.” Agha played the role of messenger, sending details of the discussion to senior PA officials in Ramallah. A senior Palestinian official confirmed to Ma’ariv there had indeed been such a meeting.
Kerry asked Agha to convey a message to Abbas: “Ask him to hold on and be strong. Tell him that he stays 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 would not remain in office for a long time. “It is a good chance that within a year, he will not be in the White House.”
That particular prediction didn’t age well.
Kerry offered to help the Palestinians advance his version of the peace process and recommended that Abbas present his version of a peace plan as well. “Maybe it is time for the Palestinians to define their peace principles and present a positive plan,” he reportedly said. He promised to use all his contacts and all his abilities to marshal support for the Palestinian plan.
This past weekend the U.S. announced the economic part of Trump’s peace plan would be announced on June 25-26, dur ing a U.S.-led economic conference in Bahrain. The Palestinians have announced they will not attend.
Disappointing my parents of blessed memory, after my undergraduate degree, law school was the furthest thing from my mind. Therefore, it’s only as a layman that I say that based on the above, it seems that the former Secretary of State did violate Logan Act.
However, even if Kerry is charged (which is doubtful), it is unlikely he would be convicted in the court of law.
In the 220 years since the Logan Act was signed into law by President John Adams, only two people have ever been indicted on charges of violating it — Francis Flournoy in 1803, and Jonas P. Levy in 1852. Neither one was convicted.
So it’s doubtful that Kerry will be charged for his Iranian negotiations, his advice to Palestinian President Abbas, or any other possible violations.