Americans are standing up and urging our President to take a stand against 47 Republican Senators who care so much for partisan politics, and so little for our national security, that they were willing to take an unprecedented measure to sabotage ongoing talks regarding a nuclear peace deal with Iran.
A petition on WhiteHouse.gov asks that the President file charges against the coalition of conservatives. led by freshman Tea Party Senator Tom Cotton. Cotton and friends wrote a strongly-worded letter to Iran’s leaders in a purported effort to educate them about the United States Constitution.
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system,” the elected leaders wrote. “Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
“President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then–perhaps decades,” the letter reads.
Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith notes on the blog Lawfare that these Senators humiliated themselves and the country by getting the Constitution entirely wrong:
The letter states that, “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification (my emphasis).” Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.” Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may, “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”
“This is a technical point that does not detract from the letter’s message that any administration deal with Iran might not last beyond this presidency,” he wrote. “But in a letter purporting to teach a constitutional lesson, the error is embarrassing.”
“I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Dr. David Zarif replied to the Republican terrorists. “The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.”
Barack Obama spoke his piece, as well. “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” the President said in response to the Republicans’ letter. “It’s an unusual coalition.”
While some may view this as simply a partisan trick, it is much more than that. The petition reads:
On March 9th, 2015, forty-seven United States Senators committed a treasonous offense when they decided to violate the Logan Act, a 1799 law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.
At a time when the United States government is attempting to reach a potential nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, 47 Senators saw fit to instead issue a condescending letter to the Iranian government stating that any agreement brokered by our President would not be upheld once the president leaves office.
This is a clear violation of federal law. In attempting to undermine our own nation, these 47 senators have committed treason.
The Logan Act says 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.
These Republicans’ actions are in clear violation of the Logan Act, and they should be charged as such. The petition is quickly gaining support.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.