During an impromptu press conference at the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump discussed — among other issues — his administration’s increasingly hawkish posture toward Iran, Newsweek reports.
Trump recently announced new sanctions on the country, and earlier this week, the administration deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, along with a U.S. Air Force bomber detachment, to the Persian Gulf.
Trump, who has long opposed the Iran nuclear deal, criticized former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, targeting former Secretary of State John Kerry in particular.
According to the president, Kerry violated the Logan Act by allegedly blocking negotiations with the country — and for that, he should be prosecuted.
“What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me,” Trump said of the Iranian regime.
“You know John Kerry speaks to them a lot, John Kerry tells them not to call. That’s a violation of the Logan Act,” he said, before doubling down on his accusations against the former secretary of state.
“That’s a violation of the Logan Act. And frankly, he should be prosecuted in that, but my people don’t want to do anything that’s — only the Democrats do that kind of stuff.”
Passed in 1799, the Logan Act is a legislation that criminalizes “unauthorized correspondence” between private citizens and foreign governments, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Although frequently cited by American politicians, the legislation has only been used in one indictment, and no American citizen has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act.
As Newsweek notes, this is not the first time that President Trump has criticized Kerry and Obama’s foreign policy positions. In a tweet posted on May 7, the president described Kerry’s dealings with Iran as “possibly illegal,” while also railing against the “very badly negotiated” Iran deal.
“Everything President Trump said today is simply wrong, end of story. He’s wrong about the facts, wrong about the law, and sadly he’s been wrong about how to use diplomacy to keep America safe,” Kerry’s spokesperson hit back.
It comes as no surprise that Trump is being hostile to Iran — imposing sanctions and disrupting the country’s economy — given that some of his closest advisers have long held antagonistic views towards Iran. John Bolton, regarded by some critics as one of the architects of the Iraq War, is serving as Trump’s national security adviser.
During the press briefing today, Trump even acknowledged Bolton’s aggressive posture, the president saying that he frequently “tempers” his adviser. Echoing the adviser, the president also refused to rule out the possibility of military confrontation.
NEW from @NBCNews Bolton convened an irregular 7am principals meeting at CIA HQ about Iran, on 29 April.— Julian Borger (@julianborger) May 9, 2019
Apparently unconnected to recent military deployments.
More echoes of Iraq. https://t.co/rrVvsTvfyw
Much like Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also advocated for a more aggressive posture toward Iran. In a Twitter message published yesterday, Pompeo praised the administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy.