How 47 US Senators May Have Committed Felonies But Won't Be Tried

It's become readily apparent many Republican politicians fundamentally misunderstand how to approach America's tenuous relationship with Iran.

On Sunday, it was revealed 47 senators sent an open letter to the leaders of Iran. They did so in regards to ongoing negotiations between the Obama administration and Iran over the country's nuclear program.

The letter was doctored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and signed by 46 others. It was written in a decidedly condescending manner and essentially warned Iran any deal made with Obama would be impermanent.

If you're not inclined to read the entire letter (see the tweet below), here's a watered-down synopsis:

Dear Iran. We don't like you, nor do we trust you. We also don't like Obama. So, we're going to do our best to derail this little attempt at diplomacy, whether it's now or after Obama is gone.
The tone in GOP senators' letter to Iran seems incredibly patronising and is just a set-up for conflict #Iran — Arthur MacMillan (@arthurmacmillan) March 9, 2015

The context of this nuclear deal is extremely convoluted. America and Iran have had an antagonistic relationship for decades.

Let's put it this way, if countries could have Facebook pages with relationship statuses, the US and Iran would perpetually be set on "it's complicated."

These are the basics of the deal: If Iran agrees to allow the US and other world powers to place limitations on its development of nuclear power, then it will be granted relief from economic sanctions.

Republicans, like Tom Cotton, don't trust Iran to uphold its end of the deal and there are concerns Iran is simply trying to deceive the world in its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

There is some validity to this position, but the way in which Cotton and his colleagues expressed their discontentment was exceptionally misguided. The letter they sent was not only insulting and embarrassing, it also may have been illegal and unconstitutional.

Some are suggesting Cotton and the other 46 senators violated the Logan Act and broke the law in the process.

Others have gone as far to say they committed treason. Correspondingly, almost 240,000 people signed a petition to the White House to file charges against the 47 senators.

The Logan Act, passed in 1799, bars US citizens from negotiating with foreign governments without official permission. In other words, don't intervene in US foreign policy, that's the president's job -- as outlined by the Constitution.

But, the last time someone was indicted for this was in 1803, and no one has ever been prosecuted for it. Thus, the 47 senators will not get into any legal trouble for what happened.

Technically, Cotton and the other senators may have violated both the Logan Act and the Constitution, but labeling them as traitors is inaccurate. What they did was embarrassing and imprudent but not treasonous.

much as I dislike Tom Cotton letter, it's ridiculous to call him + fellow signers "traitors." That's left-wing Cheneyism. — Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) March 10, 2015

The bigger issue here is the precedent they've set. Moreover, by intervening in this situation, the 47 senators indicated the president's word doesn't hold value and can't be trusted in international discussions. This could do irreparable damage to the United State's role in global affairs.

I am flabbergasted by the Senate letter. Aimed at foreign leaders in the middle of negotiations? An astonishing breach of conduct. — Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) March 9, 2015

Not to mention, the ultimate impact this will have on the Iran deal is still up in the air. Whether or not it will force Iran to take a more aggressive approach is unclear.

Pretty cool that the GOP just sent a letter to Iran arguing they should finish development of a nuclear bomb in 18 months — Kelsey D. Atherton (@AthertonKD) March 9, 2015

All of this presents a picture of an extremely disunited America to the wider world, which obviously isn't that far from the truth.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.

Citations: Did 47 Republican senators break the law in plain sight (CNN), No Tom Cotton did not commit treason (Vox), The uproar over Sen Tom Cottons letter to Iran explained (Vox), The Law Tom Cotton Supposedly Violated Is a Joke (Slate), GOP senators explain why Iran cant trust America in open letter (Vox), Republicans Warn Iran and Obama That Deal Wont Last (Bloomberg View), Republicans are crossing a dangerous new line sabotaging US foreign policy (Vox), Ayatollah Khamenei Derides Republicans Letter on Iran Nuclear Talks (New York Times)