Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Radio Free Europe
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Radio Free Europe

Updated 12 p.m. Wednesday Trump tweet.

Washington –  Sen. Chris Murphy on Tuesday defended his meeting with Iran’s foreign minister, while President Donald Trump accused the Connecticut Democrat of violating a law that bars U.S. citizens from conducting unauthorized negotiations with nations that have disputes with the United States.

Murphy led a delegation of Democrats to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during the Munich Security Conference last Saturday.

Trump on Tuesday said he had just heard of the meeting and said it sounded like Murphy violated an obscure, little-used federal law known as the Logan Act that bars private citizens from conducting unauthorized  diplomacy.

“Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like to me a violation of the Logan Act,” Trump said.

Wednesday the president added in a tweet that Murphy and former Secretary of State, who was reportedly with Murphy at the time, were the reason Iran wasn’t capitulating to a “deal” with the United States.

Murphy dismissed Trump’s comments.

“Members of Congress meet with foreign leaders all the time, even when we disagree with the president’s policy toward that nation, and even when that nation is an adversary,” said Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent critic of Trump foreign policy. “I met with the Iranian Foreign Minister to underscore the importance of protecting the safety of U.S. troops in Iraq, releasing unlawful detainees, and delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen. ”

Muphy said his discussion with Zarif were “all apolitical priorities. ”

“It’s too bad the administration isn’t having these same conversations,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s office said the senator had advised the U.S. embassy in Germany about his plans to meet with Zarif.

“For years, I have met on occasion with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, during both the Obama and Trump Administrations,” Murphy said in notes he released Tuesday about his trip, which included a visit to Kiev.  “I have no delusions about Iran.”

“They are our adversary, responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans and unacceptable levels of support for terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East. But I think it’s dangerous to not talk to your enemies,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he wanted to meet with the Iranian official for several reasons, including to “gauge whether he thinks the reprisals for the Soleimani assassination are over.”

The United States killed top Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani in a drone attack in January.  Iran responded with an air strike against U.S. bases in the Middle East, causing a number of American soldiers traumatic brain injury.

“I want to make sure it is 100 percent clear to him that if any groups in Iraq that are affiliated with Iran attack the United States’ forces in Iraq, this will be perceived as an unacceptable escalation,” Murphy said.

Murphy was not the only Democratic senator to meet with Zarif, but his office declined to identify the others.

Murphy  said he wanted to make it clear to Zarif that he knows  the “recent uptick” in attacks from Iranian-aligned Houthis in Yemen began right after the Soleimani killing. Murphy is a proponent of efforts to establish peace in Yemen.

Murphy also said he also wanted to raise with Zarif the issue of American prisoners held in Iran. “He is ready for this inquiry — he already knows how much I care about releasing innocent Americans from custody — and we spent a few minutes discussing how the situation could be resolved,” Murphy said.

On Sunday, several conservative news outlets ran critical stories, based on anonymous sources, that said Murphy and other Democrats had met “secretly” with Zarif.

Speaking to reporters in Ethopia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had read one of those stories.

“If they met, I don’t know what they said,” Pompeo said. “I hope they were reinforcing America’s foreign policy and not their own.”

Murphy has opposed the Trump administration’s foreign policy often, criticizing its decision to withdraw from a nuclear accord negotiated by former President Barack Obama.

“Unfortunately, President Trump’s Iran policy has been a total disaster,” Murphy said. “His policy is just making Iran stronger and more menacing in the region, and I wish he could have the guts to see what is right in front of his eyes – blind escalation, with no diplomatic pathway, isn’t working.”

Zelensky’s ‘new beef’

Sens. Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky in Kiev in September.

While in Munih, Murphy also attended a dinner honoring Ukrainian President  Volodymyr Zelensky. Murphy and two Republican senators, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barrasso of Wyoming, had traveled to Kiev to meet with Zelensky.

They said the Ukrainian president  has “a new beef with the United States.”

Zelensky told the senators that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a U.S.-funded news outlet that broadcasts overseas, aired a story reporting that Zelensky had secretly met with a Russian official during his recent trip to the Middle East.

“He says this is not true, and he worried that since the outlet is funded by the U.S. government, there will be an impression that the U.S. government is trying to find another way to undermine his government,” Murphy said.

Ukraine is in armed conflict with Russian-backed forces over Crimea; and Murphy said Zelensky’s complaint “is a sign of how fragile our relationship with Ukraine is, and how even the smallest slights now can do so much damage to Zelensky’s need to show that, post-impeachment, he has U.S. support again.”

President Donald Trump was impeached on allegations he held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine and a coveted White House meeting to pressure Zelensky to investigate political rival Joe Biden, whose son Hunter had had a seat on the board of an Ukrainian energy company.

Murphy said he promised Zelensky the senators would look into the matter of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcast.

“’If it matters to you,’ I tell him, ‘then it matters to us.’ He seems pleased with our response,” Murphy said.

The bipartisan group of senators also promised to seek an increase of U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Murphy and Johnson had visited Kiev together in September, but returned with very different accounts of their trip. In accounts that were included in the impeachment process, Johnson said there was no indication Zelensky felt pressure from the Trump administration to investigate the Bidens. Murphy said his impression was that Zelensky did.

Murphy said he reached out to Johnson during the impeachment trial and proposed visiting Zelensky again before the start of the Munich Security Conference. “Wouldn’t it be important for you and me to go there directly after impeachment, to send a signal that there is no distance between us, or Democrats and Republicans in general, on supporting Ukraine?” Murphy said he told Johnson.

Murphy said on his September trip he made a point of telling Zelensky that getting involved with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani or the Trump reelection campaign “was potentially disastrous for Ukraine.”

“And I knew that I had to deliver the same message to Zelensky now,” Murphy said.

Zelensky wanted to steer clear of talking about any pressure he might feel from Trump, Murphy said. But the Ukrainian president did say “though Giuliani has long wanted a meeting with him, he has always stayed clear of Giuliani and intends to keep it that way” Murphy said.

“He has no intention of getting involved in American politics any more than he already has, unintentionally,” Murphy said.

Murphy also said Zelensky, breaking away from Ukrainian and speaking English. told the senators “as an actor, I always dreamed of becoming famous in America.”

“And now I’m famous in America. But not the way I wanted!” Zelensky said.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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25 Comments

  1. Sounds like a Logan Act violation. Foreign policy is the exclusive domain of the Executive. Not sure why this has anything to do with Connecticut other than Murphy likes shaking hands with a representative of a government that has declared “Death to America” for the last thirty years.

  2. Zelensky won his presidency entirely honestly, and so far he appears to be an honest operator. It would be a HUGE mistake if Trump and his administrators were to NOT be fully supportive of him, in favor of the oligarch Putin instead.

    1. Umm, they gave Ukraine lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russia. Trump cancelled the intermediate range nuclear treaty with Russia because they’d be in violation of it for a decade and the US will now move nuclear weapons into intermediate range. Against Russia.

      Obama sent Ukraine sleeping bags and MRE’s, let Russia invade and occupy Crimea and did nothing about the treaty violation.

      Who’s more friendly to the Russians? Sleeping bags vs Javelin missiles? Nuclear weapons pointed at our allies but none pointed at Russia, or nuclear weapons pointed back?

    2. Umm, they gave Ukraine lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russia. Trump cancelled the intermediate range nuclear treaty with Russia because they’d be in violation of it for a decade and the US will now move nuclear weapons into intermediate range. Against Russia.

      Obama sent Ukraine sleeping bags and MRE’s, let Russia invade and occupy Crimea and did nothing about the treaty violation.

      Who’s more friendly to the Russians? Sleeping bags vs Javelin missiles? Nuclear weapons pointed at our allies but none pointed at Russia, or nuclear weapons pointed back?

  3. Sen Murphy tweeted earlier that the Senate makes foreign policy. That is the power of the Executive Branch. The Senate can vote on treaties and suggest policy to the POTUS, but they do NOT make it.

  4. He is doing what he has no business doing. The Logan Act is clear and he is in violation. I want to see the whole transcript of his meeting.What is right for others is right for him. He is not the President he does not have the right to try to set foreign policy and he needs to resign.

    1. He appeared at the conference as did John Kerry, who repeatedly met with the Iranians once he was no longer in office. There were reports from all political ‘sides’ that he was encouraging them to resist/ignore POTUS. Sen Murphy applauded Kerry’s efforts.

      Since Kerry was already in ‘trouble’ for his efforts, one can pretty safely believe that Sen. Murphy’s efforts now were at the request of or on encouragement from Kerry. Sen Murphy also has appeared at NIAC conferences. They are directly connected to the Tehran Regime. Murphy has received frequent praise from NIAC leaders as one of the “heroes of the Iran Deal.”

      1. So, he isn’t a citizen any more? What’s he doing here then?

        All foreign policy is vested in the Executive:

        “Under the Constitution, the president is the federal official that is primarily responsible for the relations of the United States with foreign nations. The president appoints ambassadors, ministers, and consuls (subject to confirmation by the Senate) and receives foreign ambassadors and other public officials.[30] With the secretary of state, the president manages all official contacts with foreign governments.“

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_the_president_of_the_United_States

        Pesky thing that Constitution.

      2. Senator Murphy is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking Democratic member of the subcommittee on the Middle East and Counter-terrorism. Can you point me to what Section of Article II of the Constitution you copied that language from? The only thing remote to what you are referring to is this in Section 2: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;. Hmmm, pesky it is…and Wikipedia? Really?

      3. So, let’s see the transcripts of the Senator’s discussions with the representative of the government of Iran, that has declared itself at war with the United States, shall we?

        And find out whether as a Citizen of the US has violated the Logan Act by negotiating counter to the interests of the US – https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/953

        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.

        Murphy does not set US foreign policy. No matter what he thinks.

      4. I would love to have a transparent administration! Let’s make all of the transcripts between US politicians and foreign leaders public. So in your interpretation the Secretary of State isn’t able to act on behalf of the US, or is he allowed? Only the President? Okay, so what we’ll do is selectively try to charge only democratic politicians with “violations”. Also, isn’t Guiliani in violation of the Logan Act?

      5. The Secretary of State is part of the Executive. Murphy is not.

        He wasn’t negotiating with an enemy of the United States against the foreign policy of the United States. The President sets foreign policy, not bureaucrats, Senators or Congressmen/women.

        Iran has repeatedly called for the destruction of the United States for the last thirty years. Has Ukraine done that?

      6. He must have authorization from either POTUS or SOS, especially when he is discussing replacing Trumps FOREIGN POLICY with his own, undermining the WH.

      7. Are we reading the same article? Where did he say he was replacing this administration’s “FOREIGN POLICY” as you put it? And for the record, typing in all caps really doesn’t help. While I’m here, I’m curious to see if you think that Guiliani interfering in Ukraine wasn’t in violation of the Logan Act, since he was just an American citizen and not an agent of Congress. Thoughts?

      8. The difference is AUTHORIZATION( all caps, because I feel like it).
        Trump knows what Rudy is doing, because he is his personal attorney.
        Murphy trashed our POTUS on a stage in front of world leaders. telling them that Trumps policies were wrong, and suggested what he, Murphy thinks they should be.
        He had no authorization and he did it in secret until it was found out.
        Undermining our President should not be allowed. I hope he is punished somehow.

      9. google ”POTUS Foreign Policy”.

        You will come to “Powers of the Presidents of the US”

        Cick on wiki, which has verbatim
        Language in the Constitution.
        Once there, click on number 6, Foreign Affairs.
        Article II of the Constitution is right there.

    2. He undermined Trumps policy at every opportunity.
      Read his “diary” of the event, Chuck full of trashing trump policies, and offering his as “better” policies.
      The very meaning of the Logan act.
      Diary damning link is included in Murphy’s tweet

  5. What puzzles me is why would Zarif waste his time meeting with Murphy? Murphy has no authority to make foreign policy, and has zero influence with the administration. This was a waste of time for the Iranians, and just a publicity stunt by Murphy.

    1. Because Murphy eagerly wanted to meet with him. Likely with reassuring words that a different administration would be more, umm, “helpful”.

      Naively looking for a Sec State job in the Sanders politburo. I meant Cabinet.

  6. Senator Murphy, despite his enormous ego, does not represent the elected President or his administration in state department matters. It is flat out wrong and possibly illegal.

    Why do we continue to elect clowns like him to represent us?

  7. bipartisan discussions
    He discussion was threatening Ukraine that if they cooperated with Rudy, they would lose Dem support.
    This is after he threatened Ukraine that they MUST cooperate with Mueller, or they would lose Dem support.

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