John Kerry served as secretary of state during the Obama administration after Hillary Clinton resigned. Previously, he was a senator from Massachusetts from 1985 until 2013. As the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2004, he lost to the bumbling George W. Bush. Once 2017 arrived and the Republicans took over, he was no longer a federal employee.
With all of his government experience behind him, he certainly should have known that U.S. law bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign officials without authorization. But Kerry not only has engaged in talks with officials from Iran, he openly boasts of having advised them how to deal with the Trump administration, and how to diplomatically wait out the remaining days that Donald Trump will serve as president.
While serving as secretary of state, Kerry led the way in the signing of the U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement, a pact much criticized by many American elected and appointed officials. President Trump labeled it one of “the worst deals” ever signed by U.S. officials and later canceled the agreement. In its place, Trump has created sanctions and increased isolation for the Tehran regime.
Displaying his customary arrogance during a recent radio interview, Kerry boastfully admitted that he had met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif “three or four times” since leaving the Secretary of State post. Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented, “What [Mr.} Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented…. It’s inconsistent with what the foreign policy of the United States is, as directed by this president. It is beyond inappropriate.” Others have suggested that the Kerry-Zarif meetings constitute a violation of the Logan Act — a law that prohibits private citizens from engaging in diplomatic efforts on behalf of the U.S. without proper authorization.
The Logan Act, a 200-year-old law forbidding citizens to conduct government business with foreign officials, has never been employed to stop meddling in diplomacy by unauthorized citizens. Numerous voices today are raising cries that it should be used to punish John Kerry. President Trump, instead, has pointed to the 1938 statute known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act requiring any person acting as an agent of a foreign entity to disclose what might have taken place. Originally created to deal with Nazi propagandists in the years before U.S. entry into World War II, the law has been amended several times and now focuses much more on lobbying of Congress by foreign agents, even those who are U.S. citizens. Trump said of the Kerry action:
John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian regime which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the America people. He told them to wait out the Trump administration. Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? Bad!”
Kerry has also made contact with government officials in several European countries in his efforts to undermine the Trump Iran policy. Could the Logan Act be cited to punish Kerry? Harvard University Law professor Alan Dershowitz answers yes, but he also claims it won't happen because he thinks the never-used Logan Act is no longer legally alive. He remarked:
Fortunately for everybody, the Logan Act [should be considered] a dead letter. But if it were in existence, my friend John Kerry would be violating it. He is negotiating, though he is not in the administration, and there are real problems with doing that.
A law doesn’t become a “dead letter” because of some law professor’s attitude. Only recently, the Logan Act was cited by Democrats to hound Michael Flynn, Trump’s original selection for national security adviser. Flynn had held meetings with Ukrainian officials prior to taking office, and those contacts were deemed law-breaking. Flynn was forced to resign for a different reason, however. Meanwhile, Iran continues to spread its designs on Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and in Africa and even in the Americas. And John Kerry's daughter is now married to a high-ranking Iranian government official.
Ever the arrogant politician, Kerry is now cagily responding to questions about opposing Trump in the 2020 election. Trump’s disdainful response included the following:
I see that John Kerry, the father of the now terminated Iran deal, is thinking of running for president [in 2020]. I should only be so lucky — although the field that is currently assembling looks really good — FOR ME!
John Kerry operates as if laws and precedents are for others, not for him. Sadly, he’s not alone in being given a pass for criminal activity.
John F. McManus is president emeritus of The John Birch Society.