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Lawmakers Gone Wild

The Washington Post is correct to say that "Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish," and Mike is correct to find that foolishness worrisome. Pelosi ought to worry about it, too, because … Read More

By / April 6, 2007

The Washington Post is correct to say that "Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish," and Mike is correct to find that foolishness worrisome. Pelosi ought to worry about it, too, because not only is it counterproductive and foolish, it's also very possibly felonious, according to this editorial in today's Wall Street Journal. (But why would the Speaker of the House know a bit of trivia like that?)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may well have committed a felony in traveling to Damascus this week, against the wishes of the president, to communicate on foreign-policy issues with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The administration isn't going to want to touch this political hot potato, nor should it become a partisan issue. Maybe special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whose aggressive prosecution of Lewis Libby establishes his independence from White House influence, should be called back.

The Logan Act makes it a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to three years for any American, "without authority of the United States," to communicate with a foreign government in an effort to influence that government's behavior on any "disputes or controversies with the United States." Some background on this statute helps to understand why Ms. Pelosi may be in serious trouble.

President John Adams requested the statute after a Pennsylvania pacifist named George Logan traveled to France in 1798 to assure the French government that the American people favored peace in the undeclared "Quasi War" being fought on the high seas between the two countries. In proposing the law, Rep. Roger Griswold of Connecticut explained that the object was, as recorded in the Annals of Congress, "to punish a crime which goes to the destruction of the executive power of the government. He meant that description of crime which arises from an interference of individual citizens in the negotiations of our executive with foreign governments."

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