Fox News reports President Trump lashed out Wednesday at Sen. Chris Murphy for meeting with Iran’s foreign minister and accused the Democratic senator of “illegally” violating the Logan Act.
The Logan Act, enacted in 1799, bars Americans from conducting rogue negotiations with foreign governments in disputes with the U.S.
No one has ever been successfully prosecuted under this obscure federal law, but some critics suggested in 2017 that Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn ran afoul of the law in his dealings with Russia before Trump took office. Murphy himself called for investigations at the time. Trump on Wednesday argued the Connecticut senator is now the one in breach of that law, suggesting he face consequences.
“Kerry & Murphy illegally violated the Logan Act,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, in reference to former Secretary of State John Kerry as well.
“This is why Iran is not making a deal. Must be dealt with strongly!”
Kerry & Murphy illegally violated the Logan Act. This is why Iran is not making a deal. Must be dealt with strongly! https://t.co/RpTW9c09ZY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020
Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, who broke the story of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., meeting with a top Iranian official, pointed out the “hypocrisy” of Democrats who have previously railed against the Trump administration for talks with the Russians.
“A few years ago, when [former National Security Adviser] Mike Flynn, as an incoming member in the Trump administration, had a conversation with his Russian counterpart, Chris Murphy thought that this was treasonous, illegal — that Mike Flynn needed to have his life ruined,” Hemingway told “Fox & Friends.”
Murphy confirmed Hemingway’s earlier reporting on Tuesday, saying that he met with Iran’s foreign minister and arguing that “it’s dangerous not to talk to adversaries.”
Per the Federalist, Sen. Chris Murphy confirmed The Federalist’s reporting that he privately met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif without State Department knowledge or approval in Munich last week.
After Mollie Hemingway first reported the meeting Monday, Murphy did not respond to any media inquiries.
Tuesday, he published an account of his trip on Medium, sharing details of his meetings and describing his “mission” to meet with officials of Iran, which he described as “our adversary, responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans.”
Per TCO, upon hearing the news, Trump blasted Murphy and questioned if he had violated the Logan act.
“I saw that…Senator Murphy met with the Iranians; is that a fact? I just saw that on the way over. Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like to me a violation of the Logan Act.”
President Trump: "I saw that…Senator Murphy met with the Iranians; is that a fact? I just saw that on the way over. Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like to me a violation of the Logan Act." pic.twitter.com/qOEwDaRptR
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 18, 2020
Here is Chris Murphy’s full explanation from his Medium post:
An Important Meeting
As the sun sets in Munich, I have one more mission. For years, I have met on occasion with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, during both the Obama and Trump Administrations.
I have no delusions about Iran — they are our adversary, responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans and unacceptable levels of support for terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East. But I think it’s dangerous to not talk to your enemies. Discussions and negotiations are a way to ease tensions and reduce the chances for crisis.
But Trump, of course, has no such interests. For the last three years, there has been no diplomatic channel between America and Iran, and not coincidentally, tensions have escalated, most recently resulting in over 100 American soldiers being injured in an Iranian rocket attack on a U.S. base in Iraq.
I plan to meet Zarif Saturday night in his hotel suite, and I have several goals for the meeting. First, I want to gauge whether he thinks the reprisals for the Soleimani assassination are over, and I want to make sure it is 100 percent clear to him that if any groups in Iraq that are affiliated with Iran attack the United States’ forces in Iraq, this will be perceived as an unacceptable escalation.
Zarif may not have control over Iran’s military decisions, but he is the country’s chief diplomat and I want him to know that our government is united on this point.
Second, I want his help in Yemen. I tell him that I know it is not a coincidence that the recent uptick in attacks from Iranian-aligned Houthis in Yemen started right after the Soleimani killing. I tell him that Iran shouldn’t let the Houthis waste an opportunity for peace. Of course, he predictably tells me that it’s the Saudis, not the Houthis, that are holding up progress on peace talks. But I do manage to get his attention on one subject.
I bring up a recent terrible decision by the Houthis to implement a 2 percent “tax” on all humanitarian aid being distributed by the U.S. and other donors in Yemen. It has been temporarily but not permanently suspended, and caused the Trump Administration to rightly consider pulling our aid efforts.
Zarif claims he is just learning of the issue this weekend, and he tells me that he is going to get to work on solving this problem when he returns home (while also coyly “reminding” me that he doesn’t control the Houthis).
Lastly, I raise the issue of American prisoners held in Iran. He is ready for this inquiry — he already knows how much I care about releasing innocent Americans from custody — and we spend a few minutes discussing how the situation could be resolved.
I don’t know whether my visit with Zarif will make a difference. I’m not the President or the Secretary of State — I’m just a rank and file U.S. Senator. I cannot conduct diplomacy on behalf of the whole of the U.S. government, and I don’t pretend to be in a position to do so.
But if Trump isn’t going to talk to Iran, then someone should. And Congress is a co-equal branch of government, responsible along with the Executive for setting foreign policy. A lack of dialogue leaves nations guessing about their enemy’s intentions, and guessing wrong can lead to catastrophic mistakes.
UPDATE: Murphy defended the trip on CNN’s “State of the Union” February 23rd saying he informed the State Department ahead of time that he was meeting with Zarif.