Why is this relevant?
In the past week, Donald Trump’s security advisor submitted a sudden resignation letter after less than a month in the job. The resignation of Michael Flynn came after allegations that he had conducted US diplomacy with Russia before he came into office. He reportedly had a phone call with Russian diplomats which discussed US sanctions towards them. Due to the Logan Act, Mr Flynn could be prosecuted for these actions.
What is the Logan Act?
The Logan Act defines in US national law that it is illegal for a private citizen to conduct diplomacy on behalf of the country. This means that only specific government individuals can discuss new or existing policies with officials from foreign countries. The act details that anyone who goes against this principle should be heavily fined and/or imprisoned. Therefore, it is being drawn upon to suggest that Mr Flynn’s actions were illegal. Interestingly, no one has ever been charged with this crime before.
When was the Act created?
The Act was brought about by the actions of Dr George Logan in 1798. He was a state legislator in Pennsylvania but engaged in diplomatic negotiations with France during the Quasi-War. This was controversial at the time, as he had attempted to thwart the policy of those in government. Logan was arguably successful in his mission, but the government created the act in 1799 due to his actions. He himself could not be charged with the act as his diplomacy had already been committed, but from then on it has been illegal for private citizens to discuss diplomatic matters.
As a piece of Federal Law, which means that it applies across every state, Michael Flynn’s challenge of the principles of the Logan Act is surprising. It is becoming more apparent that he will not face any legal action based on what he did, but his resignation emphasises that the law is still important.