From the text of the Logan Act, passed in 1799:
§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.
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.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
From Justice Sutherland’s majority Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation, 299 U.S. 304 (1936):
“[T]he President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.’
As of this morning more than 264,000 Americans have signed a petition designating the 47 Republican senators’ letter warning Iran against making an agreement on nuclear arms with President Obama as “treason” and urging that charges be filed for violation of the Logan Act. It’s not likely to happen but it is a growing protest nonetheless, and some of the signatories are beginning to squirm, equivocate and suggest that it was all a big “cheeky” joke.
More temperate progressives, like Slatsg at Daily Kos, are urging a less over-the-top response. Daily Kos also has an on-line petition which takes a slightly different tack, urging Senators who signed it to “Recant your signature from this outrageous letter immediately.”
An interesting side-show is what this political boomerang will do to Sen. Cotton’s grandiose political ambitions. The GOP’s new golden boy may end up replacing Ted Cruz as poster boy for wing-nut lunacy.