President Trump on Thursday accused former Secretary of State John Kerry of breaking the law by meeting with Iranian officials last year -- and went so far as to say he should be prosecuted under the Logan Act.
"You know John Kerry speaks to them a lot, and John Kerry tells them not to call. That’s a violation of the Logan Act, and frankly he should be prosecuted on that," Trump told reporters at the White House.
“But my people don’t want to do anything, only the Democrats do that kind of stuff. If it were the opposite way, they’d prosecute him under the Logan Act,” he said.
Trump appears to be partially referring to a reported meeting between Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the beginning of 2018, part of what the Boston Globe called “an aggressive yet stealthy” mission to put pressure on the Trump administration to keep the Iran nuclear deal.
Such a push was unsuccessful as Trump would announce the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) just a few months later.
But Trump has repeatedly accused Kerry of being in violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from negotiating on behalf of the U.S. government without authorization. No one has ever been successfully prosecuted under the law, however.
In September, Kerry acknowledged meeting with Zarif “three or four times” since leaving office, admitting to discussing the scrapped nuclear deal, among other issues.
“What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better,” Kerry said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show.
On Thursday, Trump indicated he believes the contact between Kerry and Tehran to be ongoing, accusing Kerry of having “many meetings and many phone calls and he’s telling them what to do -- that is a total violation of the Logan Act.”
A spokesman for Kerry pushed back on Trump’s remarks, calling them “simply wrong, end of story.”
“He's wrong about the facts, wrong about the law, and sadly he's been wrong about how to use diplomacy to keep America safe. Secretary Kerry helped negotiate a nuclear agreement that worked to solve an intractable problem,” the spokesman said.
“The world supported it then and supports it still. We'd hope the President would focus on solving foreign policy problems for America instead of attacking his predecessors for theater.”
Trump’s remarks came as the administration imposed sanctions on Tehran’s steel, aluminum, copper and iron sectors this week, the latest pressure the administration is putting on Iran’s already fragile economy.
Iran, meanwhile, announced that it will keep excess uranium instead of selling it as required by the nuclear deal. It also issued an ultimatum to Europe that it will enrich its stockpile in 60 days unless new terms to the deal are negotiated.
Fox Business Network's Blake Burman and Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.