Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration, claimed on Monday that “foreign leaders are already having phone calls with Joe Biden.”
Gen. Mike Flynn, the first national security adviser for President Donald Trump, was investigated under an arcane law called the Logan Act for having precisely such communications with foreign leaders before Trump was sworn in.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been accused of suggesting the Logan Act as a pretext for investigating Flynn, although other Obama administration officials claim the idea did not come from Biden.
Rhodes said Biden is already talking to foreign leaders during an MSNBC appearance on Monday afternoon:
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 9, 2020
Rhodes made his comments while scoffing at President Donald Trump for contesting the results of last week’s election.
“The Trump people seem to be talking like they have some agency here. We’re going to have the pageantry already of the president-elect announcing his advisory board. He’s going to start announcing cabinet secretaries. The center of political gravity in this country and the world is shifting to Joe Biden. Foreign leaders are already having phone calls with Joe Biden, talking about the agenda they’re going to pursue January 20th,” said Rhodes.
“I remember, I was on the incoming side, where I felt the spotlight shifting to us in 2008 and I was on the outgoing side in 2016 when it was shifting away from us to Donald Trump. That’s just going to happen regardless of what they do,” Rhodes added.
Gen. Mike Flynn resigned soon after Trump took office in 2017 because Obama advisers accused him of violating the Logan Act by communicating with foreign officials, specifically Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The Logan Act is a 1799 law that forbids private citizens from discussing U.S. foreign policy with foreign governments or their representatives. No one has ever been fully prosecuted under the Logan Act, not even the person for whom it is named, a doctor named George Logan accused of treasonously subverting the foreign policy of the young American republic by holding negotiations with France.
Flynn had a phone conversation with Kislyak on December 29, 2016 — long after Trump was certified as the winner of the 2016 election — during which he discussed sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia after the Russians were accused of trying to influence the election. Flynn told Kislyak he wanted the Russians to refrain from retaliating for the sanctions and escalating the diplomatic feud between Russia and America before Trump took office.
The FBI recorded Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak while monitoring the Russian ambassador. During one of the last Oval Office meetings between Obama and his advisers on January 5, 2017, it was suggested that Flynn could be investigated and prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. Notes from former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok released by the Justice Department in June 2020 indicated it was Biden who suggested using the Logan Act to pursue Flynn.
Sally Yates, deputy attorney general under the Obama administration and briefly acting attorney general under Trump, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2020 that she could not remember if Biden brought up the Logan Act.
Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September that Biden did not suggest prosecuting Flynn for violating the Logan Act. “I would remember it because it would be highly inappropriate. It did not happen,” he said.
Flynn was accused of lying to FBI agents in a January 24, 2017, interview when he told them he did not discuss U.S. sanctions with Kislyak. Flynn resigned his position as national security adviser on February 13, 2017, stating he had given “incomplete information” about his phone call to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak before Trump was sworn in. Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea in January 2020, claiming the government violated the terms of his plea deal. Flynn’s sentencing was postponed, although the judge said in September he was not prepared to throw out the case entirely. The judge ordered the Justice Department to review its filings in the Flynn case in late October after several documents were found to have been altered.
The conversations between Biden and foreign leaders claimed by Ben Rhodes would at least potentially be violations of the Logan Act for the same reason Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were, and Biden is currently even further from taking office than Flynn was at the time. This would be especially true if the Trump administration’s sanctions or other policies were discussed with foreign officials.
Documents discovered on a laptop owned by Joe Biden’s son Hunter raised serious questions about whether Biden was involved in foreign business deals of dubious propriety, including deals that involved agents of the Chinese government.
Correction: An earlier version of this post initially stated that Gen. Mike Flynn was “prosecuted” under the Logan Act, but he was actually investigated because of it, as the post explains in detail. The term has been corrected.