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Washington - Republican Attempt To Deflect Trump-Russia Probes Could Backfire

Published on: September 11, 2017 03:31 PM
By: Reuters
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FILE - Devin Nunes speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua RobertsFILE - Devin Nunes speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Washington - Republican lawmaker Devin Nunes’ investigation into whether Obama administration officials used classified intelligence reports to discredit Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team could backfire on the congressman - and the president, sources familiar with the reports said.

The reports contain no evidence that any aides to former Democratic President Barack Obama acted improperly, the sources said, but they do indicate some Trump associates may have violated an obscure 1799 law, the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign government that has a dispute with the United States.

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The spying reports also are relevant to the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia worked to tilt last November’s election in Republican Trump’s favor, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mueller’s office declined to comment.

Russia, under U.S. sanctions for rights abuses and its 2014 annexation of Crimea, has repeatedly denied allegations of election meddling. Trump has denied any possible collusion between his campaign and Moscow, an issue that has loomed over the new presidency. [nL2N1LO1S1]

Nunes, chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee and a Trump ally, met secretly earlier this year with a White House intelligence aide and then accused Obama officials of having requested the names of U.S. citizens seen in intercepts of communications with Russians and other foreigners.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The names would have been routinely censored from intelligence agency intercepts, but Nunes charged that Obama’s aides had leaked the information to try to undermine Trump while he was running for president.

A spokesman for then-United Nations ambassador Samantha Power, whom Nunes and other Republicans accused of digging for political dirt, said she read intelligence reports only as part of her normal duties. A spokesman for former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, whom Republicans also accused of misusing intelligence, did not respond to requests for comment.

Mueller is investigating meetings and conversations between Trump associates and Russian and other foreign officials and businessmen. They include Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner; the president’s eldest son Donald Trump, Jr.; former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“An obvious question is how all these meetings and conversations were set up,” said one of the sources. “Who set them up? What was their purpose? What were the agendas? Who approved them? Who was briefed on them afterward? Signals intelligence might shed some light on that.”

Representatives for the Trump associates did not respond to requests for comment.

Democratic lawmakers have said that Nunes and others have made the assertions about the leaks to distract attention from two congressional investigations and Mueller’s probe into the Russian matter.

The National Security Agency masks the names of U.S. citizens in intercepts, but officials with the necessary security clearances can request them for intelligence purposes.

“Unmasking Americans is extremely sensitive, and unmasking political opponents is really problematic,” said a congressional official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity. If Obama officials asked for the names or failed to justify any requests, that warranted investigation, the official said. 

Asked for hard evidence that Power or other aides misused intelligence for political purposes or leaked such information to the media, the official declined to comment.



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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Sep 11, 2017 at 08:56 PM Educated Archy Says:

The best they can come up with is some obscure vague Logan Act . In all likelihood the clause which bans colluding with foreign nations that have a dispute with the USA is referring to an armed dispute . If that's not the case where do you draw the lines? What dispute is counted and what isn't ? Furthermore , at the time of the Logan law was passed we were in an armed dispute . That was the intention at the time the law was written .

Laughable

2

 Sep 12, 2017 at 10:00 AM georgeg Says:

> the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign government that has a dispute with the United States.

Not correct. The act states clearly:

> 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

Clearly the act outlaws only an attempt to convince a foreign government to disregard the position of the United States on a foreign dispute matter.

Clearly no law against "negotiating" otherwise, even when not authorized. And what has been released of Trump's team "negotiating" with Russia was a clear statement made to Russia to NOT retaliate for the Obama's sanctions on Russia. By what sick stretch of the imagination does that fall under the Logan Act?

3

 Sep 12, 2017 at 10:16 AM yonasonw Says:

Reply to #1  
Educated Archy Says:

The best they can come up with is some obscure vague Logan Act . In all likelihood the clause which bans colluding with foreign nations that have a dispute with the USA is referring to an armed dispute . If that's not the case where do you draw the lines? What dispute is counted and what isn't ? Furthermore , at the time of the Logan law was passed we were in an armed dispute . That was the intention at the time the law was written .

Laughable

An "armed dispute" is irrelevant Archie...it applies to any matter in dispute with a foreign government.

You could have discovered that, Archie, by doing a simple Google search...Alas, do you think that you are so highly educated and so knowledgeable that you don't need to reach out even to easily accessible authorities?

The text of the Logan Act prohibition reads as follows:

"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."

4

 Sep 12, 2017 at 10:43 AM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #3  
yonasonw Says:

An "armed dispute" is irrelevant Archie...it applies to any matter in dispute with a foreign government.

You could have discovered that, Archie, by doing a simple Google search...Alas, do you think that you are so highly educated and so knowledgeable that you don't need to reach out even to easily accessible authorities?

The text of the Logan Act prohibition reads as follows:

"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."

Yup I read it. And according to NPR's legal expert Nina Totenberg its very unclear if the words "any disputes or controversies" refer to armed disputes.

Furthermore, you would have to prove that it was done "with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government".

Sorry buddy, its wishful thinking. Go back to the Billy Bush tapes

5

 Sep 12, 2017 at 11:03 AM yonasonw Says:

Reply to #2  
georgeg Says:

> the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign government that has a dispute with the United States.

Not correct. The act states clearly:

> 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

Clearly the act outlaws only an attempt to convince a foreign government to disregard the position of the United States on a foreign dispute matter.

Clearly no law against "negotiating" otherwise, even when not authorized. And what has been released of Trump's team "negotiating" with Russia was a clear statement made to Russia to NOT retaliate for the Obama's sanctions on Russia. By what sick stretch of the imagination does that fall under the Logan Act?

I don't see your legal question.

The operative language in the law prohibits, directly or indirectly, commencing or carrying 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..."

I think clear that whether and how the Russian government reacts to United States sanctions is a "controversy" with the United States well within the meaning of the law.

That said, only two indictments and no convictions have ever been handed down under the Logan Act.

6

 Sep 12, 2017 at 01:12 PM yonasonw Says:

Reply to #4  
Educated Archy Says:

Yup I read it. And according to NPR's legal expert Nina Totenberg its very unclear if the words "any disputes or controversies" refer to armed disputes.

Furthermore, you would have to prove that it was done "with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government".

Sorry buddy, its wishful thinking. Go back to the Billy Bush tapes

Whatever you heard, or think you heard, Nina Totenberg say, that's clearly not the case.

Four historically recent examples where Logan Act prosecutions were threatened:

In February 1941, while we were still at peace, former President Herbert Hoover was accused of violating the Logan Act because of his negotiations with European nations over sending food relief;

In 1975, Senators John Sparkman and George McGovern were alleged to have violated the Logan Act when they traveled to Cuba and met with officials there;

In 1984, Reverend Jesse Jackson was accused by President Reagan of violating the Logan Act after travelling to Cuba and Nicaragua, and returning with several Cuban political prisoners; and

In March of 2015 forty-seven Republican senators were threatened with Logan Act charges, after they released an open letter to the Iranian government trying to block the nuclear arms agreement between Iran and six major powers.

Finally, almost all violations of criminal law require the state to prove a defined criminal "intent." The "intent to influence" element is virtually indistinguishable from the prohibited "act," and therefore is rather weak and no big deal.

7

 Sep 12, 2017 at 02:11 PM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #5  
yonasonw Says:

I don't see your legal question.

The operative language in the law prohibits, directly or indirectly, commencing or carrying 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..."

I think clear that whether and how the Russian government reacts to United States sanctions is a "controversy" with the United States well within the meaning of the law.

That said, only two indictments and no convictions have ever been handed down under the Logan Act.

The legal question is simple. The intent of the law when it was written was to ban negotiations under during armed conflicts as we were with France. It clearly was not simply a ban on any country we have dispute with. Nowadays, say we hae a dispute over some minor issue with germany is there a ban to all of a sudden "collude" with Germany?

And since you admit that there is some controversy around some aspects of the law good luck convincing a republican house that its illegal.

Keep dreaming. After all, there maybe amnesty for dreamers one day too!

8

 Sep 12, 2017 at 04:00 PM yonasonw Says:

Reply to #7  
Educated Archy Says:

The legal question is simple. The intent of the law when it was written was to ban negotiations under during armed conflicts as we were with France. It clearly was not simply a ban on any country we have dispute with. Nowadays, say we hae a dispute over some minor issue with germany is there a ban to all of a sudden "collude" with Germany?

And since you admit that there is some controversy around some aspects of the law good luck convincing a republican house that its illegal.

Keep dreaming. After all, there maybe amnesty for dreamers one day too!

You say "...The intent of the law when it was written was to ban negotiations under during armed conflicts as we were with France..."

See Comment #6

There is no evidence anywhere to support your notion that the Congressional intent was to limit the Logan Act's scope to negotiations "...during armed conflicts...;" the Act has been invoked consistently, and I believe exclusively, in other contexts.

9

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