What we can learn from John Kerry

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was an Obama administration holdover in the Department of Justice for the first few weeks of the Trump administration. In that capacity she played a leading role in the events that culminated in the resignation and indictment of Michael Flynn relating to his alleged dishonesty about an intercepted conversation with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak. Subsequent events based on Yates’s testimony are set forth in this ABC timeline. Is it conceivable that Yates was acting in good faith when she raised concerns that Flynn’s conversation violated the Logan Act? I don’t think so.

Early this past May the Boston Globe reported that former Secretary of State John Kerry’s had held private conversations with the Foreign Minister of Iran to salvage the Iran deal and to subvert the Trump administration’s abandonment of it. We learned a little more about those conversations this week as Kerry hit the airwaves to promote his new memoir.

On Wednesday Hugh Hewitt interviewed Kerry. The audio and transcript of the interview are posted here. Kerry denied that he’s been coaching the Iranian Foreign Minister on the Iran deal. With the background of the Boston Globe story in mind, Michael Rubin heard Kerry’s diplomatic formulation of his efforts and thought Kerry acknowledged working behind the scenes to salvage the Iran nuclear deal.

Kerry, however, put it this way: “What I have done is tried to elicit from [Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif] what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better.” Rubin further noted that Kerry’s backchannel with the Iranian Foreign Minister has not been a one-time deal. “I think I’ve seen him three or four times,” Kerry said.

Dana Perino followed up on FOX News later that day. I have embedded the video below. You can see the wheels turning in Kerry’s mind as he calculates how best to spin his activities. He also reduces the number of meetings with Zarif to “two or three.” He denies discussing the nuclear deal — but see the Boston Globe story linked above. Kerry’s denial is, moreover, hedged. He asserts that “more importantly” he was discussing Iranian behavior. In this context, I read “more importantly” as “also.”

Kerry did not deny — in his own way he seemed to confirm — that he’s telling the Iranians to wait out Trump until there is a Democratic president again. “I think everybody in the world is talking about waiting out President Trump.”

Kerry is transparent, in a sense. He is a transparent liar.

Readers with a long memory may hear a distant echo of Kerry’s efforts as a much younger citizen to end the Vietnam War. In early 1971 Kerry met in Paris with representatives of the Communist North Vietnamese government and the South Vietnamese Communist front group to seek a way out of the war for the United States. Kerry testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that May: “I have been to Paris. I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [i.e., North Vietnam] and the [Communist South Vietnamese] Provisional Revolutionary Government.” The Washington Post reviewed the story in 2004 when the Swift Boat Veterans opposing Kerry’s presidential campaign recalled it.

I wrote Sally Yates twice this past May to ask for her comment:

Dear Ms. Yates: I write for the website Power Line (powerlineblog.com) and write to request a comment from you on John Kerry’s reported meeting with the Iranian foreign minister to work against the Trump administration’s possible exit from the Iran deal. The story is reported by Matt Viser in the Boston Globe and available online [URL omitted].
Will you please comment on the possible Logan Act violation involved in Kerry’s meeting as reported in the Globe?
Thank you for your courtesies and consideration.

Scott Johnson
Power Line (powerlineblog.com)
St. Paul, Minnesota
Cell: [omitted]

Yates never responded. What might she have said? We can learn indirectly from the example of John Kerry that Sally Yates was highly likely to have had something other than the Logan Act in mind in her pursuit of Michael Flynn. Considering Kerry on his own terms, however, Jonathan Tobin also has it right: “For a former federal official to seek to help a tyrannical Islamist, anti-Semitic regime counter the efforts of his successor is a disgrace.”

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