The Massachusetts Democrat told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he has been communicating with Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif about the nuclear deal he helped negotiate under President Barack Obama in an interview that aired last week.
“What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better. What do you do to try to get peace in Syria? I mean, those are the things that really are preoccupying, because those are the impediments to people, to Iran’s ability to convince people that it’s ready to embrace something different.”
Trump responded by tweeting that Kerry’s “illegal meetings” would “undercut our great work.”
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 American people. He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2018
In a news conference the following day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Kerry’s “unseemly and unprecedented” conversations were “literally unheard-of.”
Now Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is getting in on the act. The Florida Republican asked the Department of Justice to investigate Kerry’s actions on Tuesday.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 18, 2018
Rubio retweeted Fox & Friends on Thursday morning to argue that Kerry had violated the Logan Act, which forbids private citizens from having “any correspondence” with foreign governments.
Any citizen who without authority of the U.S. commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign govt or any officer or agent thereof…with intent to defeat the measures of the U.S…shall be fined or imprisoned not more than 3 years or both #LoganAct https://t.co/OPXJoaFPlk
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 20, 2018
Later Thursday, he went on Fox News to suggest Kerry had broken the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires “public disclosure” of relationships with international entities. The segment was tweeted out from the official Twitter account for Rubio’s press office.
On @foxandfriends I discussed why @TheJusticeDept should investigate whether John Kerry’s recent meetings with Iranian officials on the #IranDeal is in violation of the #LoganAct and #FARA. pic.twitter.com/z2PD4RuHs8
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) September 20, 2018
There are several possible flaws with these accusations. As USA Today explained, “FARA’s provisions don’t extend to activities conducted entirely overseas, so where Kerry interacted with (Zarif) matters.” Kerry told Hewitt that the meetings took place at global conferences in Norway and Germany. Also, the incidents in question reportedly occurred before Trump announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. And it should be pointed out that no one has been convicted of violating the Logan Act since it was passed by Congress 219 years ago.
As Kerry noted to Fox News last week, most former secretaries of state have continued to be involved in global affairs without accusations of impropriety.
“Every secretary of state, former secretary of state continues to meet with foreign leaders, goes to security conferences, goes around the world. We all do that. And we have conversations with people about the state of affairs in the world in order to understand them. We don’t negotiate. We are not involved in interfering with policy. But we certainly have reasonable discussions about nuclear weapons, the world, China, different policies obviously.”
Of course, Rubio was one of the 47 Republican senators who signed a letter sent to Iran’s leadership in 2015, while Obama’s White House was negotiating the nuclear deal, that said any agreement between the two nations without their approval could be undone by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.” Rubio has not commented on whether his 46 Republican colleagues or he could also be subjected to potential FARA or Logan Act charges.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of FARA violations and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was accused of FARA violations. It has also been suggested that Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner may have violated the Logan Act with their involvement in the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents. In addition, Kushner could have committed FARA violations, according to the financial disclosures forms that he has revised over 40 times since filing them.