As President Trump ratchets up the pressure on a nuclear Iran, former members of the Obama regime are holding secret conversations with the Iranian government, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. How would Democrats and their allies in the media have reacted if former VP Dick Cheney was having conversations with our enemies while Barack Obama was president?
In June 2018, Mark Theissen wrote about Barack Obama and his regime’s dealings with Iran, saying they took “lying to new heights” in a Washington Post article.
When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration increasingly appears to have been a bottomless pit of deception.
First, President Barack Obama failed to disclose to Congress the existence of secret side deals on inspections when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. (They were only uncovered by chance when then-Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) learned about them during a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna.) Then, we learned that the Obama administration had secretly sent a plane to Tehran loaded with $400 million in Swiss francs, euros and other currencies on the same day Iran released four American hostages, which was followed by two more secret flights carrying another $1.3 billion in cash.
In a bombshell revelation, Republicans on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), have revealed in a new report that the Obama administration secretly tried to help Iran use U.S. banks to convert $5.7 billion in Iranian assets, after promising Congress that Iran would not get access to the U.S. financial system — and then lied to Congress about what it had done. (Full disclosure: My wife works for Portman).
In summary, the Obama administration: (1) told Congress it would not allow Iran access to U.S. financial institutions; (2) issued a special license allowing Iran to do exactly that; (3) unsuccessfully pressured U.S. banks to help Iran; (4) lied to Congress and the American people about what it had done; (5) admitted in internal emails that these efforts “exceeded” U.S. obligations under the nuclear deal; (6) sent officials, including bank regulators, around the world to urge foreign financial institutions to do business with Iran; and (7) promised that they would get nothing more than a slap on the wrist for violating U.S. sanctions.
How bad is this? Remove the words “Obama” and “Iran” and replace them with “Trump” and “Russia” and imagine the outrage that would ensue over the same revelations. Democrats would be holding news conferences, and the story would be front-page news.
Now, two and a half years after President Trump’s inauguration, Barack Obama’s regime is still negotiating with Iran.
The Daily Beast reports – Conversations between former Obama officials and Iranian government officials have been ongoing since November 2016. Zarif, who visits the U.S. every year for the U.N. General Assembly in New York, usually meets with lawmakers, think tanks, journalists, and former officials when he is in town.
But the recent round of conversations, which took place over the phone and in person over the last two months, came as lines of communication between the U.S. and Iran, through intermediaries in Europe and elsewhere, deteriorated.
The U.S. policy toward Iran—a scorched-earth campaign to crush the country’s economy—took a turn this month when the Trump administration, following new Iranian activity that concerned American intelligence and national-security officials, sent ships and B-52 bombers to the region in a show of force. That move fed fears of military conflict between the two powers.
Officials in the intelligence community concluded that those aggressive steps came in response to the Trump administration’s decision to punish any country that violates U.S. sanctions by buying Iranian oil and to designate Tehran’s military as a terrorist group. Just a few weeks later, news broke that the White House was considering a proposal to send upward of 120,000 troops to the Middle East. Instead, President Trump decided to send 1,500.
Several former officials who spoke to The Daily Beast stressed that their discussions with their Iranian contacts were “normal.” But in other corners, these kinds of talks cause alarm. A Republican congressional aide who works on Iran policy told The Daily Beast the conversations may run counter to the Trump administration’s messaging to the Iranian government.
“It’s not just about what they were saying to the Iranians,” the aide said. “It’s about what they were saying to their political allies back here in the U.S. Their strategy was to divide and isolate the Trump administration just as the Trump administration was trying to re-establish deterrence with Iran. In the current highly partisan political environment, the only safe course is to signal national unity—and they contributed to eroding that at home and abroad.”
Conversations of this nature sometimes generate fervid conversations about an obscure piece of legislation, passed in 1799 and never once enforced, called the Logan Act. It’s been more than 150 years since anyone has been charged with breaking it, as History Today notes, and nobody has ever been convicted over it.
The Federalist blasts the rogue John Kerry, saying his behavior is treasonous and likely in violation of the Logan Act.
To be clear, no one in the current presidential administration either authorized or asked Kerry to engage such kind of interference. It’s all his own doing. Someone should remind Kerry that he is no longer the U.S. secretary of state. As a private citizen, his reported activities working with foreign officials, especially officials from U.S. adversaries such as Iran, to potentially undermine the current administration is treasonous and likely in violation of the Logan Act:
Private correspondence with foreign governments
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.
Let’s not forget that President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, got into legal trouble for negotiations at the United Nations over a resolution with Israel, a U.S. ally, while working for a legitimately elected Trump during the presidential transition period. Flynn was accused of violating the Logan Act. No one in the United States had ever before been officially charged with violating the Logan Act since its birth more than 200 years ago. Thus, Flynn eventually pled guilty instead for lying to the FBI.
If the Boston Globe’s report is true, Kerry’s behavior seems to meet the defined prosecutorial scope of the Logan Act. Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz said on Fox News over the weekend that Kerry is lucky no one has been prosecuted under the Logan Act, or else he could be in trouble. Still, Dershowitz pointed out that there are real problems with Kerry negotiating with foreign government officials while he has no legal authorization to do so as a representative of the United States.