Tea Party Senator Tom Cotton is leading the charge against Iran in an almost treasonous manner. Desperate to derail peace talks between the United States and Iran, Cotton and 46 other Senators sent a letter to Iran’s leaders promising to sabotage any deal the two countries might reach.
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system,” the letter reads. “Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
“President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then–perhaps decades,” the letter informs Iran’s leaders in hopes of creating doubt about any agreement into which Iran may enter.
The Logan Act expressly prohibits unauthorized citizens from directly or indirectly corresponding with foreign governments, “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.”
These 47 Senators all signed their names to a letter that aims to do exactly this — a crime punishable by up to three years in prison, as well as fines. It is doubtful that any of these Senators was authorized to attempt to, by Cotton’s own admission, sabotage negotiations.
“The end of these negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence. A feature, not a bug, so speak,” Cotton said in January at a Heritage Action for America conference.
Even if the letter written by these lawmakers is not technically treason, it sure feels like it. Rather than point out that 47 of our lawmakers are actively working to sabotage our nation’s national security, or use the “t-word,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest had some harsh words for these Senators.
At a press conference Monday, Earnest described the letter as, “a continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national security interests around the globe.”[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=533xp0fGci0?rel=0&showinfo=0&w=640&h=360]
“The fact is that we have heard Republicans for quite some time, including the principle author of this letter, make clear that their goal is to undermine these negotiations,” Earnest said. “Again, that is not a position that I am ascribing to Sen. Cotton, that is a position that he has strongly advocated. He described it as a feature of his strategy, not a bug.”
“I think the other thing that is notable here is that when you have a letter that is signed by forty-seven senators of the same party being sent to a leader of a foreign country, it raises some legitimate questions about the intent of the letter,” Earnest said. “It’s surprising to me there are some Republican senators who are seeking to establish a backchannel with hardliners in Iran to undermine an agreement with Iran and the international community.”
This isn’t Cotton’s first brush with a complete lack of ethics in dealing with Iran. In 2013, Cotton (while in the House of Representatives) pushed an amendment to the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013 that would punish family members of those who violate sanctions. The punishments would, “include a spouse and any relative to the third degree.” According to Rep. Cotton, this would include, “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.”
“There would be no investigation,” Cotton said. “If the prime malefactor of the family is identified as on the list for sanctions, then everyone within their family would automatically come within the sanctions regime as well. It’d be very hard to demonstrate and investigate to conclusive proof.”
“An amendment is being offered literally to allow the sins of the uncles to descend on the nephews,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said of Cotton’s proposed language. “The amendment that’s being offered doesn’t even indicate a requirement of knowing violation. … I really question the constitutionality of a provision that punishes nephews for the sins of the uncles.”
Cotton’s amendment is expressly prohibited by Article III of the Constitution, which bans punishing treason based on “corruption of blood,” but Cotton argues that “Iranian citizens do not have constitutional rights under the United States Constitution,” and therefore they do not deserve to be treated as humans.
However, the Fifth Amendment reads “no person … shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” with no distinction made regarding citizenship.
“In Wong Wing v. United States, the Supreme Court found that noncitizens charged with crimes are protected by the Fifth Amendment, along with the Sixth and 14th Amendments,” “HuffPo” notes. Cotton eventually, reluctantly, withdrew the amendment.
In addition, Cotton’s letter made a major error while “educating” Iran’s leaders about our Constitution, as noted by Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith. On the blog “Lawfare”, Goldsmith points out that these 47 Republicans demonstrated that they do not actually understand the Constitution they purportedly love:
The letter states that, “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification (my emphasis).” Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.” Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may, “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”
“This is a technical point that does not detract from the letter’s message that any administration deal with Iran might not last beyond this presidency,” he wrote. “But in a letter purporting to teach a constitutional lesson, the error is embarrassing.”
You can read the letter, below, courtesy of Bloomberg: