Republicans' letter to sabotage President Obama on Iran is a historic low

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They pretend as if the man isn’t even in the White House.

It may not be an exaggeration to say that the 47 Republican lawmakers who wrote a letter to the Iranian government are traitors. Some believe they committed a felony under the Logan Act.

Lest you were unaware or uncertain that these folks do not recognize the president as the legitimate leader of the United States, read the letter.

In an effort to undermine President Obama’s negotiation with Iran over their nuclear program, 47 GOP Senators, most of the Republican caucus, wrote what they curiously called “An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” on U.S. Senate stationery. In the letter, they purport to school Iranian government officials on the U.S. constitution.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system,” the senators first state. “Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.”

The senators argue that the president negotiates international agreements and the Senate must ratify them with a two-thirds vote. A congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and Senate, and anything not approved by Congress is merely an executive agreement, they say.

But this is where it gets interesting. The letter notes that while senators have 6-year terms, the president serves only two-4 year terms, adding, “As applied, today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain office beyond then — perhaps decades.” Further, the senators declare, “we will 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 Khamenei” which the next president and a future Congress can revoke.

So, in other words, President Obama won’t even be in the White House, but these Republican senators presume they will still be in control — along with a Republican president — to undo anything Obama has agreed upon with Iran.  Well, why have a president negotiate with foreign governments and craft agreements at all?

Obama said the 47 senators want to “make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” calling it “an unusual coalition.” Vice President Joe Biden was offended by the letter, which he characterized as “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.” Meanwhile, Dr. Jarad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, dismissed the letter as a “propaganda ploy” with no legal value and “unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

Even the New York Daily News can see through all of this, calling out Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) as “TRAITORS” on the newspaper’s front page. A petition on the White House website wants the president to charge the senators with treason.

Senator Cotton, who organized the letter, admits he wants to sabotage Obama’s talks with Iran, preferring regime change instead. And just to show you he is your typical unscrupulous politician, he wants war with Iran, and he’s in it for the money. As was reported in The Intercept, a day after writing the letter, Cotton was headed to a meeting with the National Defense Industrial Association, the lobbying group for defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman and Boeing. Cotton has even advocated for Congress supplying Israel with Boeing-manufactured B-52 bombers and “bunker-buster” bombs for an attack on Iran.

This sounds like something straight out of Frank Underwood and House of Cards, but this is real. And the 47 senators really broke the law. Under the Logan Act, citizens without authority of the U.S. are forbidden from carrying on “any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government . . . with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government . . . in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.” Now, whether these senators will be indicted under the law is another story, as the Logan Act has never been successfully used. Nevertheless, the law is still on the books, and this is a felony with a punishment of a fine and up to three years in prison.

Everyone knows the president is in charge of foreign policy, and citizens cannot cut their own side deals with foreign governments. Certainly, Congress cannot set up their own foreign policy apparatus with separate diplomats, embassies and negotiators.

However, this is the Tea Party we’re talking about, the folks who are jonesing to secede, refight the Civil War and take up the cause of the Confederacy. And when you’re dealing with the first black president, who in their eyes is illegitimate, foreign, and even a terrorist who hates America, Republicans suppose that anything is possible. And yet, as much as the agents of the GOP love to say the president hates America, it is hard to imagine anything more hateful of America than this letter.

Imagine if Senate Democrats had risked the security of the country by sabotaging a Republican president and inflaming tensions with a foreign nation in such a brazen manner. You cannot even imagine it, because it would not happen.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove