White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did not do anything illegal when he spoke to a Russian Ambassador about lifting sanctions related to election interference once President Trump took office. Instead, Spicer said, the President asked Flynn to resign after losing his trust.
“What they determined within several days, there was not a legal issue,” Spicer said. Spicer explained that on January 26th, Trump was immediately informed of the situation and it was his view that this was not a violation. Spicer said the White House Legal Counsel “undertook an extensive review of the materials” and concluded there was no violation of the law.
So what was the accusation? Some have speculated that Flynn could be in violation of the Logan Act. That statute says:
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.
It remains unclear just how the Act would apply, considering that it’s never been enforced before. There’s no question that the Logan Act applied to civilians who communicate with foreign governments, but given that Flynn’s rumored remarks came during the transition period after the election, with Flynn having ties to the incoming administration, it’s a complicated situation without a definitive answer. However, the statute does say that it applies to “Any citizen” who acts “without authority of the United States.” So even though Flynn is currently part of a U.S. administration, he wasn’t at the time, so when he spoke to the ambassador, regardless of what he said, it was likely not with the authority of the United States. But, again, Spicer contends that Flynn was fired because of a trust issue, and that he did not violate the law.
Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.