Former U.S. presidents had always strived to be apolitical after they left the office, especially when it comes to criticizing the present White House occupant.
But not Barack Obama.
Emmanuel of Three Percenter Nation points out that not only had Obama set up residence in Washington, D.C., just a few miles away from the White House, he has been doing all that he can to undermine President Trump and his administration by:
- Taking jabs at Trump on everything from his policies to comparing him to Hitler.
- Shadowing Trump across the world by going to the same places Trump had just visited, e.g., Trump’s first trip as president, the G20 Summit meeting in Germany, where Obama would slam the Trump administration.
As reported by Bloomberg in November 2017, Obama made a three-nation tour where:
- In France, Obama told a “room full of French former ministers and CEOs” that “at the moment we have a temporary absence of American leadership” on climate change, but that, thankfully, “American companies and states and cities [are] continuing to work” to meet targets and stay on track.
- In Shanghai, China, Obama said in a speech to “some 2,500 industry executives” of the Global Alliance of SMEs (SME=small and medium enterprises) that China-U.S. relations were the most consequential bilateral ties in the world, and dialogue was the only way to solve disagreements.
- In India, Obama met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and addressed a leadership forum where, as reported by Mediaite, he took “some brutal dings against President Donald Trump,” saying: “And look, I’ve got 100 million Twitter followers. I actually have more than other people who use it more often. Think before you tweet.” Obama also met with China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping. Obama’s office said in a news release that Obama “forged a close and cooperative partnership with President Xi on issues ranging from growing the global economy to combating climate change.”
But what Obama has been doing is not simply breaking a tradition of former U.S. presidents being apolitical, he is in violation of a federal, albeit rarely enforced, law.
The law is the Logan Act, passed by the 5th U.S. Congress and enacted into law on January 3, 1799 as 1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953, which criminalizes negotiation by unauthorized American citizens with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. The intent behind the Act is to prevent unauthorized negotiations from undermining the government’s position.
§ 953 of the Logan Act states that:
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.
Though rarely invoked or enforced, since 1975, the following individuals were accused of violating the Logan Act:
- In 1975, Democrat Senators John Sparkman and George McGovern were accused of violating the Logan Act when they traveled to Cuba and met with officials there.
- In 1984, President Ronald Reagan said Jesse Jackson may have violated the Logan Act by traveling to Cuba and Nicaragua and returning with several Cuban political prisoners seeking asylum in the United States, but Jackson was never indicted.
- In 1987 and 1988, the Reagan administration considered using the Logan Act against Democrat House Speaker Jim Wright’s “intrusion” into the negotiations between Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and the Contras for a cease-fire in the long civil war, but nothing ever came of it.
- In June 2007, Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced legislation to prohibit Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from drawing on federal funds to travel to foreign states that the U.S. deemed to sponsor terrorism. King claimed that Pelosi’s dialogue with the Syrian government violated the Logan Act. King’s amendment was not adopted.
- In July 2016, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and several Democratic senators accused Donald Trump of violating the Logan Act by allegedly encouraging the Russian government to hack the email of Hillary Clinton.
- In an op-ed in December 2017, University of Chicago Law School professors Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner argued that Michael Flynn violated the Logan Act in his dealings with the Russian ambassador during the Presidential transition of Donald Trump.
- In April 2018, the Boston Globe speculated that former Secretary of State John Kerry might have violated the Logan Act by meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister in order to ensure Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran — which the Trump administration opposes — remained more or less intact. Matthew Summers, a spokesman for Kerry, admitted that Kerry “urged Iran to keep its commitments under the Iran nuclear agreement”.