Did the GOP Senators' Iran Letter Break The Law?

| by Sean Kelly
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Tom Cotton and 46 other senators sparked intense controversy when they penned an open letter to Iranian leaders that undercut President Obama's efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with the country. Now, scholars and pundits are questioning whether or not the senators broke the law.

CNN reports the senators made headlines for the letter, which essentially said the negotiations may be meaningless once a new president is in office in 2017. The senators said they would "consider any agreement regarding your nuclear weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khomenei." According to reports, the letter may technically be a violation of something called the Logan Act. 

The Logan Act, passed in 1799, forbids U.S. citizens acting without authority from the government from "influencing disputes or controversies" between the U.S. and foregin countries. In its 216-year history, the Logan Act has resulted in just one indictment and no prosecutions. 

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Cotton defended the letter that he co-authored.

"This letter is about stopping Iran from getting a nuclear deal," he said. "One way that we make sure that we get a better deal is that we stand strong."

Temple University law professor Peter Spiro argued that the letter is, in fact, an outright violation of the Logan Act despite arguments to the contrary. The letter, Spiro said, "fits pretty neatly with the elements of a Logan Act violation."

"These guys are freelancing," he said. "For these purposes I don't see them as private individuals except that because they are members of Congress it actually has greater potential to interfere with the successful undertaking of negotiations. It actually cuts the other way."

Source: CNN / Photo Credit: nydailynews.com