Tag Archives: Logan Act

Trump redefines ‘fake news’

I am still rolling this one over in my noggin, but it might be that Donald “Smart Person” Trump has crafted a new definition of what we know as “fake news.”

During that rambling and ridiculous press conference Thursday, the president kept asserting that the Russia story is “fake news.”

As Shepard Smith of Fox News points out, it ain’t “fake,” Mr. President, and you need to provide some answers to Americans who are demanding to know the truth.

The Hill reported Smith’s response to Trump’s criticism of the media: “No sir,” Smith continued. “We are not fools for asking this question, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people. Your supporters will support you either way. If your people were on the phone, what were they saying? We have a right to know, we absolutely do and that you call us fake news and put us down like children for asking these questions on behalf of the American people is inconsequential. The people deserve an answer to this question at very least.”

Smith, of course, is correct to challenge Trump’s constant berating of media for doing their job.

I’m now beginning to think that what Trump calls “fake news” really is news that is unimportant. It’s true, just not worth the media’s — or the president’s — time.

The whole “fake news” story burst on the public stage with bogus reports intended to do damage to political figures. Someone makes a story up, posts it on the Internet, the story goes viral and people respond the way the person who posts it intended. They make money on all the “clicks” they get on the bogus item. Some of these trolls get caught, are exposed for what they are — liars! — and then vow to quit doing it.

The Russia stories aren’t “fake” if you adhere to that original definition of “fake news.”

Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had conversations with Russian officials. The question pending is when he did that and at whose request or command. Moreover, when did Flynn lie to the vice president about it and did he violate the Logan Act, which bars unauthorized citizens from “negotiating” with foreign governments?

In other words, did Flynn tell the Russians that the new president would reduce or eliminate the sanctions leveled on them by the man who still was in power, President Barack H. Obama? Remember, too, that the sanctions came after CIA and other intelligence agencies determined that Russian hackers sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.

It isn’t “fake,” Mr. President. Reporters have every right — indeed an obligation — to ask you about all this.

It’s important in the extreme.

So, knock off the “fake news” description.

Cotton becomes Senate's new media star

Move over, Ted Cruz. You’ve been supplanted as the U.S. Senate’s media star — by yet another new guy.

I never thought Cruz, a Texas Republican, could be pushed aside so quickly. But he has, by another Republican newcomer, Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

All Cotton has done is draft a letter that has infuriated the White House, created a stir in the international community and perhaps given a handful of fellow Republicans a case of the nervous jerks.


The Letter, as I like to call it, was sent to Iranian mullahs, advising them to perhaps reject a nuclear disarmament deal being hammered by their government and the United States. Some have suggested the letter violated a long-standing U.S. law, the Logan Act, that bans unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

Hey, no problem, says Cotton. He’s just doing the people’s will, he said.

As Politico reported: “Though he clearly has media savvy — he runs a guerrilla-like Twitter account that constantly blasts Obama’s foreign policy — Cotton has little regard for the media relationships of his forebears. He declined — three times — to answer questions for this story when approached in the Senate hallways. Instead, Cotton chose a spate of cable TV interviews and an interview with The Wall Street Journal to push his message this week.”

There once was a time when Senate newcomers thought it was better to be seen and not heard. More senior senators used to frown on the new guys gobbling up so much media air time and print space with their rhetoric.

Former Sen. Phil Gramm, another Texas Republican, became known for his penchant for grabbing a microphone. Then came current Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, who immediately became known as a Senate loudmouth.

Cruz, I thought, set the standard for blowhards when he joined the Senate in 2013.

Now we have Sen. Cotton, elected in 2014. He’s been in office for all of three months, but look at him. He goes and writes this letter, gets 46 of his GOP colleagues to sign it, presents to the Islamic Republic of Iran and causes quite the stir.

These new guys all promised to shake things up in the formerly staid U.S. Senate.

Brother, they sure have.

GOP senators broke the law with The Letter

Let’s remember The Letter.

It was sent by 47 Republican U.S. senators to the mullahs who run the Islamic Republic of Iran. It sought to discourage the Iranians from agreeing to a treaty that would end Iran’s nuclear program.

Some observers have suggested that the letter broke the Logan Act, enacted in 1799 to prohibit unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

Now we hear from a law professor at American University that the senators may have broken the law.


What’s the punishment? Professor Stephen Vladeck said the senators got away with something. The Logan Act is virtually unenforceable and it might even be unconstitutional, he said.

What’s more, says the professor, House Speaker John Boehner might have broken the law by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington to lobby against the Iranian nuclear negotiation. Should the speaker be punished? In my mind, sure. Will he be punished? Again, no.

The Letter is what’s gotten folks so riled up in Washington.

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., came up with the idea. He pitched it to his GOP colleagues, 46 of whom signed it. Seven more GOP senators didn’t sign The Letter. One of the senators whose name is missing is Susan Collins of Maine, who has said The Letter has alienated Republicans even more — if that’s possible — from their Democratic colleagues and, oh yes, the White House.

That doesn’t matter to the Gang of 47. They wanted to make some kind of point about trying to broker a deal with Iran.

They made it, and likely broke the law in the process.

Take a bow, folks.

Logan Act may have been violated

The Logan Act was enacted in 1799, during the John Adams administration.

Its provisions are clear: No citizen shall — other than the president of the United States — shall negotiate with another government or presume to speak for the U.S. government.

Here is what it says:

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

So, here’s the question: Did the 47 Republican U.S. senators who signed the letter to Iranian government officials seeking to discourage Iran from approving a nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States violate the Logan Act?

Some folks are beginning to suggest that the letter’s intent is so egregious that the senators might have committed a near-treasonous act.

President Obama is seeking to negotiate a deal that ends Iran’s nuclear program. The senators are telling Iran that whatever treaty approved might become invalid once the president leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017. The GOP lawmakers are encouraging the Iranians to oppose the treaty.

There appears to be some serious undermining of the president’s authority to negotiate a treaty. Yes, the Senate has the right to disapprove of the treaty once it’s finalized. However, to interfere in the midst of negotiations? That job belongs to the president of the United States — and no one else.

Message to the Senate Republicans: Butt the hell out!