What is the Logan Act and what does it have to do with Michael Flynn and President Trump?

Published: Monday, December 04, 2017 @ 2:22 PM

WATCH: Michael Flynn Charged with Lying to FBI

Michael Flynn, former national security adviser for President Donald Trump, acknowledge in court last week that he had conversations with Russian officials during the transition period between the election and Trump’s swearing-in, then lied to the FBI about doing so. 

According to charging documents, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about actions that took place after the election, during the transition.

While many have speculated that Flynn is a subject of the investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the documents do not allege collusion or conspiracy with Russian officials prior to the election. The documents instead refer to two discussions Flynn had with Russian officials in the months after the November 2016 election.

The first conversation involved Russia’s reaction to a United Nations resolution on Israeli settlements. The other conversation concerned President Barack Obama’s executive order on Russian sanctions. According to Flynn, each time, “senior officials” on the Trump transition team directed him to convey certain information.

While Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was charged with lying to the FBI, what he lied about – conversations with foreign governments during the transition – is covered by a two-century-old law called the Logan Act.

Here’s a look at the Logan Act and what Flynn’s legal jeopardy would be if he were indicted on suspicion of violating the act.

What is the Logan Act?

The Logan Act, (18 U.S.C. § 953) is a 218-year-old law that prohibits people outside of the US executive branch from interfering in U.S. foreign policy.

The law reads:

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.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

Has anyone ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act?

No one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, though at least two people appear to have been indicted under the act. 

Why isn’t someone who breaks the law prosecuted?

Most refer to the Logan Act as “dead letter,” or a law that remains on the books but is essentially not prosecuted. Some believe the law is unconstitutional – restricting free speech – and vague.

What have the courts said about the Logan Act?

Not much, since there have been no prosecutions under the act. Courts have commented on the Logan Act, and in 1964, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said of the Logan Act that there exists a “doubtful question with regard to the constitutionality of that statute under the Sixth Amendment. That doubt is engendered by the statute's use of the vague and indefinite terms, "defeat" and "measures." Neither of these words is an abstraction of common certainty or possesses a definite statutory or judicial definition.”

Should Flynn be worried about prosecution under the Logan Act?

Probably not, given that in more than 200 years, no one has been prosecuted for violating it. The more pressing legal trouble would involve lying to the FBI, something Flynn admitted doing.

Pulse Trial: Police body cam, surveillance video allowed in trial of alleged gunman’s wife

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 10:50 PM

A view of the Pulse Nightclub sign on June 21, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. A shooter killed 49 people and injured at least 100 in a shooting rampage on June 12, 2016.
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
A view of the Pulse Nightclub sign on June 21, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. A shooter killed 49 people and injured at least 100 in a shooting rampage on June 12, 2016.(Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

A federal judge ruled Tuesday on what evidence will and will not be allowed in the Noor Salman trial.

>> Read more trending news 

Salman is the wife of Omar Mateen, who authorities have said killed 49 people and injured more than 100 at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016. Mateen was killed by police the night of the shooting.

Noor Salman is the wife of alleged Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. Authorities believe she knew about the attack that killed 49 and did nothing to stop it.(Facebook/ WFTV.com)

Prosecutors believe Salman knew about the planned attack, came up with a cover story and did nothing to stop the shooting.

Salman faces charges of aiding a former terrorist organization and obstruction of justice.
Judge Paul Byron ruled evidence that involves police body-camera video and surveillance video from inside the nightclub will be allowed in court.

>> Related: Who is Noor (Salman) Mateen, wife of Orlando mass shooter?

The surveillance video shows Mateen walking around the club with a gun.

The evidence also included cellphone video inside a restroom where Mateen fired at several victims and survivors. In the video, multiple rounds of rapid gunfire can be heard. 

Body-camera video from officers showed law enforcement outside of the club giving medical attention to gunshot victims.

Byron ruled last week that a terrorism expert will be allowed to testify about Mateen’s Facebook posts on the Islamic State group.

>> Related: Pulse trial: Terrorism expert allowed to testify

A psychologist has also been allowed to testify.

Salman’s trial is set to begin March 1.

No more free checking for Bank of America customers with low balances

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 11:42 PM

Charlotte-based Bank of America has eliminated a free checking account popular with lower-income customers. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Charlotte-based Bank of America has eliminated a free checking account popular with lower-income customers. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Charlotte-based Bank of America has eliminated a free checking account popular with lower-income customers.

>> Read more trending news

The bank is now requiring customers to keep more money in their accounts to avoid a $12 monthly fee.

A national petition on change.org has more than 52,000 signatures from people begging the bank not to end its free checking accounts.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the bank switched its e-banking customers into the new accounts this month.

E-checking, which launched in 2010, had a monthly fee of $8.95, but customers could avoid the fee by using online banking and not using a teller.

Now, those customers will have to pay a $12 monthly fee unless they maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500 or make a direct deposit of $250 or more.

Jessica Wassman said her boyfriend just learned about Bank of America’s plan to end its e-checking accounts and transfer those customers to core checking accounts.

"It did seem a little unfair,” Wassman said. “If you don't make a certain amount of money, you get penalized for it. It was a little insulting. The cost of living is going up, but poverty is still big and people can't afford simple things.”

Economist John Connaughton said checking accounts cost banks money and, with the economy improving, said customers can expect higher bank fees.

"When you start to see 4 percent unemployment, those are the types of things that happen,” Connaughton said.

Man with tattooed face wanted for climbing in unlocked window, assaulting woman

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:01 PM

Domestic assault suspect Michael Mann is wanted by Cincinnati authorities.
Crimestoppers Cincinnati
Domestic assault suspect Michael Mann is wanted by Cincinnati authorities.(Crimestoppers Cincinnati)

Ohio authorities are searching for a man with distinctive tattoos covering his face and neck, who is  accused of climbing through an unlocked window at a Cincinnati home and assaulting a woman.

>> Read more trending news 

Michael Mann, 34, is wanted for aggravated burglary and domestic violence.

According to police reports, Mann entered the woman's Cincinnati home and slapped and choked her. Police said he has a history of domestic violence and drug charges.

The latest incident involving Mann and the victim, who he has a child with, happened on Jan. 9.

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding the suspect.

Clotilda: Last-known slave ship uncovered after East Coast ‘Bomb Cyclone’

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 1:23 PM

East Coast ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Uncovers Last Known Slave Ship, Clotilda

Years of research and a particularly strong winter storm has led a reporter in Alabama to what is likely the remains of the last ship to carry slave cargo from Africa to the United States.

Writer Ben Raines of al.com reported Tuesday that what is left of the slave ship Clotilda, “lies partially buried in mud alongside an island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta, a few miles north of the city of Mobile. The hull is tipped to the port side, which appears almost completely buried in mud. The entire length of the starboard side, however, is almost fully exposed.”

The ship’s remains were discovered by Raines when the “Bomb Cyclone” winter system hit the eastern half of the country earlier this month. A confluence of strong systems created the storm that caused the tide in Mobile Bay to be especially low, Raines pointed out. The lower than normal tide better exposed what was left of the ship.

In the story, Raines says he documented the wreck with historical documents and photos – the remains rest in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, accessible only by boat – and took his findings to a team of archaeologists from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Fla.

>> Read more trending news

The archaeologists agreed that Raines had probably found what was left of the Clotilda.

In the summer of 1860, the Clotilda brought 110 men, women and children from Africa to Alabama in violation of U.S. laws that banned international slave trade. The ship’s trans-Atlantic journey was the last recorded trip bringing human cargo from an African nation to the United States.

The expedition was financed by Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Mobile businessman who made a bet that he could sneak slaves into the country past forts on either side of the entrance to Mobile Bay, “under the officers’ noses.” 

Meaher was able to hire a ship and captain to bring the slaves to Mobile, but fearing that he would be caught and punished for the stunt, Meaher arranged for the ship to be burned after he had the slaves unloaded.

Those 110 slaves who were brought over on the Clotilda were freed five years later at the end of the Civil War. They asked Meaher to pay for their return to Africa. He refused, and the group went on to petition the U.S. government for the money. When the government refused, the group took up residence near Mobile, creating the community of Africatown.

The town, according to historian Sylvianne Diouf in her book “Dreams of Africa in Alabama,” was run under traditional African law and used African farming and education methods. The last survivor of the Clotilda trip, Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis , died in 1935, though descendants of the slaves brought over on the ship still live in the area.

The story of the Clotilda was recently resurrected in an episode of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by historian Henry Gates. In a December episode, Roots front man and drummer Questlove – whose given name is Ahmir Thompson – finds out that his great, great, great grandfather, Charles Lewis, was one of the slaves brought to America on the Clotilda’s trip.

Gates tells Questlove that Meaher chose the more than 100 slaves from a group of 4,000 to be brought to Alabama. Lewis was one of those chosen.

"Think about the odds, man," Gates said.

Click here to read Raines’ full story on finding the Clotilda.