Trump spars with Kerry over 'possibly illegal' talks on Iran deal

Former Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday dismissed President Trump’s suggestion that Kerry’s discussions with the Iranian foreign minister about salvaging the Iran deal are “possibly illegal.”

“I think every American would want every voice possible urging Iran to remain in compliance with the nuclear agreement that prevented a war,” Kerry’s spokesman said in a statement. “Secretary Kerry stays in touch with his former counterparts around the world just like every previous secretary of state.”

Kerry helped broker the 2015 agreement.

“Like America’s closest allies, he believes it is important that the nuclear agreement, which took the world years to negotiate, remains effective as countries focus on stability in the region,” the spokesman added.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands during a joint press conference at the Kremlin on December 15, 2015 in Moscow. / AFP / POOL / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 15, 2015. / AFP / POOL / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 15: US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not seen) in Moscow on December 15, 2015. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ROME, Dec. 13, 2015-- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends a joint press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the UN Secretary-General for Libya Martin Kobler after the International Conference on Libya in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 13, 2015. Representatives of the international community at a Rome conference on Libya endorsed on Sunday a UN-backed deal aimed at bringing Libyan rival factions to a unity government. (Xinhua/Jin Yu via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - 2015/12/09: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers press remarks at the Caring for Climate Business Forum during the COP21 the World Climate Change Conference in Paris. (Photo by Jonathan Raa/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a UN Foundation breakfast meeting on oceans at a hotel in Paris on December 8, 2015 on the sidelines of the COP21 climate change conference. / AFP / POOL / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry boards a plane to return to Washington, at the International Airport in Athens, on December 4, 2015. / AFP / POOL / JONATHAN ERNST (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 14: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) hold a meeting at Villa Taverna on December 14, 2014 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by U.S. Embassy in Rome/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech in Lima on December 11, 2014, during the UN 20th session of the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol being held from December 1st to 12th in Lima. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech in Lima on December 11, 2014, during the UN 20th session of the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol being held from December 1st to 12th in Lima. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) speaks with Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov (L) before a working lunch at the State Department in Washington, DC, December 10, 2014. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Last week, the Boston Globe reported that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations in April “seeking to salvage the Iran deal he helped craft.”

Trump responded to Kerry’s diplomatic freelancing in a tweet on Monday morning.

“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal,” Trump tweeted. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”

The president was presumably referring to a possible violation of the Logan Act, an 18th-century law that prohibits private citizens, as Kerry now is, from conducting negotiations with foreign governments. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his informal adviser, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, both raised the issue over the weekend.

There have been no prosecutions under the act for well over a century, although there was speculation in 2017 that contacts before Trump took office between nominee for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., might have constituted a violation.

The Obama administration hailed the agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program as historic. But Trump has long hinted that he may withdraw from the Iran deal, calling it “one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed.”

The president faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether the United States will remain in the pact.

During a state visit Washington, D.C., last month, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Trump to stay in the deal. According to the Globe, Kerry also quietly met with Macron.

Over the weekend, London’s Guardian newspaper reported that Trump aides hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a so-called “dirty ops” campaign against Obama administration officials who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal.

The New Yorker magazine said that the Israeli operatives were the same spies hired by disgraced filmmaker Harvey Weinstein to gather dirt on his female accusers.

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