The Logan Act could be a big problem for Trump

Ryan Goodman writes: A major question remains as to whether President Trump’s inner circle violated federal law before coming into office by communicating with foreign governments and undermining the official policies of President Barack Obama. But if you listen to almost any recent commentary, you would think that the law in question — 1799’s Logan Act — is essentially a dead letter. Why? We’re told that no one has been convicted of violating the Logan Act since the law was signed more than 200 years ago.

That’s true, but that’s not nearly the end of the argument. What commentators miss is that the Logan Act has been “enforced” and relied upon time and again by the executive branch, most notably through the State Department.

In the 19th century, secretaries of state kicked foreign ambassadors out of the country for aiding and abetting violations of the Logan Act. The Spanish minister to the United States in 1805 and the British consul during the Civil War were expelled on that basis. (It is fair to wonder if the current Russian ambassador — Sergey Kislyak — should meet a similar fate for his conversations with ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn before Trump’s inauguration.) [Continue reading…]

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