Interfering in Ukraine A Breach of U.S. Law?

Recent news that John McCain and Lindsey Graham made a trip to Ukraine in early January 2017 was rather surprising.  What is even more surprising is this commentary from Lindsey Graham and John McCain, made in the presence of Ukraine’s President Poroshenko on the front lines of the Ukraine civil war, comments which seems to fly directly in the face of Donald Trump’s approach to Russia:

Urging a restart of the stalled Ukrainian civil war, here’s what Lindsey Graham had to say:

Your fight is our fight, 2017 will be the year of offense. All of us will go back to Washington and we will push the case against Russia. Enough of a Russian aggression. It is time for them to pay a heavier price.

Our fight is not with the Russian people but with Putin. Our promise to you is to take your cause to Washington, inform the American people of your bravery and make the case against Putin to the world.”

John McCain had this to say:

I believe you will win. I am convinced you will win and we will do everything we can to provide you with what you need to win. We have succeeded not because of equipment but because of your courage.

So I thank you and the world is watching and the world is watching because we cannot allow Vladimir Putin to succeed here because if he succeeds here, he will succeed in other countries.”

Given that some theorize that actions taken by former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Victoria Nuland, may have engineered the regime change in Ukraine, the comments by both Graham and McCain seem particularly malevolent since they obviously are not making any kind of personal sacrifice in restarting this conflict.

What is even more interesting is a little-known federal law called the Logan Act, dating back to 1799, which 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.”

In addition, a very influential Supreme Court decision from December 1936, United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation looked at the sale of unauthorized/illegal munitions of war and the delicate balance between the powers wielded by the Executive Branch when it acts without congressional authorization in foreign affairs.  Here are the key paragraphs in the decision:

Not only, as we have shown, is the federal power over external affairs in origin and essential character different from that over internal affairs, but participation in the exercise of the power is significantly limited. In this vast external realm, with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the 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…  

The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. He manages our concerns with foreign nations and must necessarily be most competent to determine when, how, and upon what subjects negotiation may be urged with the greatest prospect of success. For his conduct he is responsible to the Constitution. The committee considers this responsibility the surest pledge for the faithful discharge of his duty. They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety. The nature of transactions with foreign nations, moreover, requires caution and unity of design, and their success frequently depends on secrecy and dispatch.” (my bold)

With Donald Trump still being President-elect while the warmongering John McCain and Lindsey Graham were pontificating in Ukraine, it certainly appears that they were not representing the future president and it is highly unlikely that they were representing the last days of the outgoing Obama Administration given that they are both Republicans.  At the very least, it looks like both men were meddling with Trump’s moves to soften America’s approach to Russia and their interference certainly has the appearance of breaching U.S. laws.

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