One of the latest manufactured right-wing “controversies” surrounds Hillary Clinton, and her use of a personal e-mail account for both personal and work-related messaging. Clinton turned in her e-mails months ago — 55,000 printed pages — when the State Department requested them from all Secretaries of State dating back to Madeline Albright.
As many of her discussions were to government employees on government e-mail addresses, the majority of her e-mails were already recorded, in any case. Recently, however, Republicans have been posing the question: “What do those e-mails say about Benghazi?”
So, thanks to the right-wing outrage machine, Clinton was forced to stand before the cameras on Tuesday and treat these concerns that she may be concealing something of value as though they were legitimate:
But as I — as I said, I saw it as a matter of convenience, and it was allowed. Others had done it. According to the State Department, which recently said Secretary Kerry was the first secretary of state to rely primarily on a state.gov e-mail account.
And when I got there, I wanted to just use one device for both personal and work e-mails, instead of two. It was allowed. And as I said, it was for convenience. And it was my practice to communicate with State Department and other government officials on their .gov accounts so those e-mails would be automatically saved in the State Department system to meet recordkeeping requirements, and that, indeed, is what happened.
And I heard just a little while ago the State Department announced they would begin to post some of my e-mails, which I’m very glad to hear, because I want it all out there.
Fortunately, Ms. Clinton was able to discuss an issue that far surpasses the gravity of E-mailghazigate — the treasonous actions of 47 Republican Senators.
“I want to comment on a matter in the news today regarding Iran. The president and his team are in the midst of intense negotiations,” Clinton began. “Their goal is a diplomatic solution that would close off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb and give us unprecedented access and insight into Iran’s nuclear program.”
Then she dropped the hammer:
Now, reasonable people can disagree about what exactly it will take to accomplish this objective, and we all must judge any final agreement on its merits.
But the recent letter from Republican senators was out of step with the best traditions of American leadership. And one has to ask, what was the purpose of this letter?
“There appear to be two logical answers,” the former Secretary of State said. “Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander- in-chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the letters’ signatories.”
The letter was an embarrassment to the nation, in and of itself.
“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,” says the missive, in which Republicans vow to ensure lasting strife with Iran.
Many are pointing out that this decision by unauthorized individuals to contact Iran’s leaders outside of official channels in an effort to negatively influence peace talks is in direct violation of the Logan Act:
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, 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, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
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.”
Goldsmith writes that “in a letter purporting to teach a constitutional lesson, the error is embarrassing.”
And embarrassing it was, when Iran’s Foreign Minister Dr. David Zarif schooled Republicans not only on the Constitution, but on international law. He offered in response:
I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.
Even worse, Barack Obama was able to take the opportunity to have a laugh at the expense of these traitors. “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” President Obama said of the letter. “It’s an unusual coalition.”
A petition asking that these 47 Republicans be charged under the Logan Act is circulating, and is quickly picking up steam. In less than 24 hours, it has accumulated more than 80,000 signatures. You can sign it, here.
Watch Clinton’s press conference, below: