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.

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 Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, 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 his 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 to 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 “dirty ops” campaign against Obama administration officials who had 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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(Cover photo credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images; T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg/Getty Images)