Then-Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Manhattan, April 22, 2016.(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
If there is one word to describe the last 14 months in media, it is “collusion.”
Open any newspaper, turn on any news program, and there’s a good chance you’ll see something about the allegations that President Trump (or some member of his inner circle) conspired with Moscow in 2016 to win the election. This particular story line has been in the news cycle since practically day one of the Trump presidency.
On Friday evening, there was yet more talk about an American working covertly with members of a hostile foreign government to undermine official U.S. diplomacy. The difference with this particular story, however, is that it involves neither Trump nor the Russians. It involves former Secretary of State John Kerry and the Iranians.
John Kerry’s bid to save one of his most significant accomplishments as secretary of state took him to New York on a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, where, more than a year after he left office, he engaged in some unusual shadow diplomacy with a top-ranking Iranian official.
With the Iran deal facing its gravest threat since it was signed in 2015, Kerry has been on an aggressive yet stealthy mission to preserve it, using his deep lists of contacts gleaned during his time as the top US diplomat to try to apply pressure on the Trump administration from the outside.
The quiet lobbying campaign — by him and others — is being conducted below the radar because he and his allies believe a high-profile defense of the deal by prominent Democrats would only backfire and provoke Trump, making it more likely the president would pull the United States out of the deal.
The story’s headline is simple: “Kerry quietly seeking to salvage Iran deal he helped craft.”
What Kerry is reportedly doing sounds a whole lot like an actual, verifiable act of an American conspiring with a hostile foreign power to thwart an agenda pushed by duly elected U.S. officials, thereby undermining the will of the voters. (To be fair, recent polling shows 56 percent of surveyed voters support the Iran deal. But elections do matter, and all that).
As to whether any of this amounts to a violation of the Logan Act, let's leave that answer to the legal expert quoted by the Boston Globe, who said, “The act only applies to conduct that is designed to ‘defeat the measures of the United States’ or influence the conduct of foreign governments. If all Kerry is doing is working to keep in place something that’s still technically a ‘measure of the United States,’ I don’t see how the statute would apply even if someone was crazy enough to try it.”
Then again, this interpretation implies that private actors who help the administration achieve its goals of changing current foreign policy would be violating the Logan Act. So go figure.
Lastly, I know it's silly, but can you imagine the reaction if former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was caught in 2015 trying to sabotage the Obama administration’s efforts to get this stupid Iran deal passed in the first place? My goodness, we would still be hearing about it.
In the meantime, I have a crisp $5 bill that says this Kerry story gets little play outside of the Boston Globe's initial report, and that it drifts off mostly unnoticed into eventual obscurity. Still, three cheers for the reporters who broke the story.