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Sideshow Bob has once again declared his candidacy for President. As a demonstration of his ability to negotiate with foreign powers, Bob wants to negotiate a trade deal with a foreign government, with the mutual understanding that the trade deal cannot take effect unless and until Bob formalizes the trade deal as President (assuming neither the current nor any future President other than Bob wants the trade deal.)

Such conduct would appear to violate the text of the Logan Act; however, the sole intent of the Act appears to be to protect the foreign policy interests of the current US government. Since the trade deal would only take place in a hypothetical future US government, the current government's foreign policy interests would theoretically remain unaffected.

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  • Is there a particular reason you believe that Sideshow Bob's negotiation with foreign powers on a hypothetical win in an upcoming election would not influence how the foreign powers act with the current administration? That is, where the foreign power could not delay negotiations until post-election cycle for regards to a given deal that is less in their favour? May 3, 2023 at 4:50
  • Only two people have ever been indicted for Logan Act violations, in 1803 and 1852, and neither one even went to trial. So there won't be any case law on how it is to be interpreted, and answers to this question will be speculative at best. May 3, 2023 at 23:54

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If I'm the Attorney General, Bob goes on trial.

Let's look at the relevant text from the Logan Act.

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.

I see no mention here of current or future administrations, only the influencing of foreign nations. The semantics of current versus future administrations might be persuasive at trial, or might not.

That said, just violating the Logan act isn't enough to get one charged with it. Kissinger certainly wasn't charged.

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  • It seems to me that “to defeat the measures of the United States” could be interpreted to refer to foreign policy measures taken by the current government.
    – moonman239
    May 13, 2023 at 15:13

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