Tom Vilsack Accuses Donald Trump Of Violating The Logan Act; Trump Claims He Was Only Joking

Susan Macdonald

Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, asked whether presidential candidate Donald Trump violated the Logan Act. The Logan Act is a 200-year-old law that prohibits U. S. citizens from private dealings with foreign governments "in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States."

"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."

The Des Moines Register quoted Tom Vilsack, President Obama's Secretary of Agriculture and the former governor of Iowa, criticizing Trump's comments at a press conference in Florida on July 27.

"What about yesterday, where he invited a foreign country with which we have an adversarial relationship, to inject itself into our politics.... That's a no-no. You can't do that. That's not legal, that's not right. Yesterday, Donald Trump sided with Russia and not with us."

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of Defense and the former CIA director, called Donald Trump's comments "outrageous" and proof Trump was "not qualified to be president of the United States," according to the Huffington Post.

"You've got now a presidential candidate who is in fact asking the Russians to engage in American politics. I just think that is beyond the pale."

As for Donald Trump himself, he says he was only joking. In an interview on Fox and Friends, Trump told host Brian Kilmeade that he was only being sarcastic and hadn't intended his comments to be taken seriously. However, he did not say so until after both Democrats and Republicans protested his remarks. Even his own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, made a statement distancing himself from Trump's remarks.

Did Donald Trump violate the Logan Act? Is Trump guilty of treason? Or was he merely joking, as he claims? Should a presidential candidate be more careful about his words?

[Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images]