The Logan Act is nothing new, in fact it’s almost as old as the United States itself. It was enacted into federal law all the way back in 1799, and like most things back then, it is pretty direct and comes right to the point. The Logan Act bars, under federal improsonment, any private US citizen from negotiating directly with a foreign government that has a dispute with the United States. It don’t get much simpler and more direct than that.
One would think that you would have heard of a law that big and important in the news as various miscreants are sent packing to Club Fed for it. One would be wrong. Turns out that the Logan act has been used less than laws fining you for not keeping your yard clean enough. As far as I could find, only one person has been prosecuted for violating the Logan Act, and that person was acquitted.
But somehow or other, I have a strong feeling that we may be hearing a lot more about the Logan Act in the near future. If already existing reporting is true, there are at least two members of Trump’s inner squiggle (they’re too erratic to be called a “circle”) that may be in violation of the Logan Act.
The first one, the disgraced former General Michael Flynn could be liable on two counts. Count one, It has been reported that while he was a member of the Trump transition team, Flynn was in secret negotiations with the Turkish government to accept upwards of $15 million if he did two things. First, spring free a Turkish gold trader under indictment for violating US sanctions on Iran. The other? No big deal, just find a way to spirit out, by hook or by crook a Turksih cleric, living in the US as a permanent legal resident, and get him back to Turkey. That last one alone could easily be considered a kidnapping conspiracy, but more importantly,it could be a violation of the Logan Act. We only have one functioning administration at a time, any member of the Trump transition team, even Trump himself is still a private citizen until 12:00 noon on January 20th.
Flynn’s second liability in having violated the Logan Act would be in regards to his interactions with the then Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyiak. Flynn is under Robert Mueller’s microscope over reports that at Christmastime of 2016, again as a private citizen part of the Trump transition team, Flynn engaged in a conversation with Kislyak over US sanctions. Then President Barack Obama had just expelled 20+ Ryssian diplomats, and the us had seized two Russian compounds in the US in retaliation for Russian interference. Flynn told Kislyak to advise Putin to take no rash retaliatory actions, that Trump would revisit and most likely lift the sanctions once he was sworn in. It seems to have worked, since most intelligence observers were stunned when Putin took no retaliatory action. Flynn’s actions were a prime example of a private citizen covertly negotiating with a foreign government to the detriment of the United States, a clear violation of the Logan Act.
But there’s another former Trump transition team member who is also in jeopardy for violating the Logan Act, and this one hits closer to home. It is none other than his nebbish son in law, Jared Kushner. It was reported yesterday that Mueller is looking into Kushners conduct, when again, as a private citizen member of Trump’s transition team, prior to inauguration day, he went to the UN to talk about the dispute between the US and Israel involving US displeasure over Israel building settlements in areas contested by the Palestinians over ownership. Again, you have a private citizen, this one representing an incoming administration, potentially negotiating directly with foreign powers without the consent of the sitting US administration. If it can be proven, this would be illegal.
There could be others at risk as well. For instance, Trump campaign adviser has admitted to meeting with at least one sitting Russian government official when he traveled to Moscow to give a speech during the campaign. If Page cracks under interrogation by Mueller’s team, and admits to discussing any kind of quid pro quo for Russian interference in the 2016 election, that could conceivably be considered a violation of the Logan act if proven. The same thing could be true of any Trump campaign staffer who was caught dealing directly with the Russians to collude for interference in out election if it could be proven that the person they dealt with was a formal member of the Russian government. That may be one of the reasons why the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskiya came under such intense scrutiny, she claimed to represent the Russian prosecutors office, and the Russian prosecutor is a close crony and ally of Vlad the Imp.
To be sure, there are many twists and turns left in this mountain road called the Robert Mueller investigation, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re gonna be hearing a lot more about the Logan Act in the future. To my mind, Flynn is a poster child for it, since Putin’s restraint in retaliating against the US for expelling its diplomat spies and seizing their dachas here in the US was so out of sorts. We shall se.