Stop talking about the Logan Act.
It was not the violation of this antique and ignored piece of anti-Jacobin legislation that has touched off the biggest foreign-policy scandal since Watergate.
Nobody would care if an incoming national security adviser had confidential conversations with an ambassador of a hostile foreign government before Inauguration Day, if it were believed that the conversations served a legitimate and disinterested public purpose.
But that is exactly what is doubted in this case.
To put the story in simplest terms:
1) Russian spies hacked Democratic Party communications in order to help elect Donald Trump.
2) Donald Trump welcomed the help, used it, publicly solicited more of it—and was then elected president of the United States.
3) President Obama sanctioned Russia for its pro-Trump espionage.
4) While Russia considered its response, its ambassador spoke with the national security adviser-designate about the sanctions
5) The adviser, Flynn, reportedly asked Russia not to overreact, signaling that the new administration would review the sanctions; Russia did not respond.
6) As president-elect and then president, Donald Trump has indicated that he seeks to lift precisely those sanctions caused by Russia’s espionage work on his behalf.
All of this takes place against the background of Donald Trump’s seeming determination to align U.S. foreign policy ever closer to Russia’s: endorsing the annexation of Crimea, supporting Russia’s war aims in Syria, casting doubt on the U.S. guarantee to NATO allies, cheering on the breakup of the European Union.
It takes place, too, in the context of Trump’s murky corporate financial obligations to Russian entities. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. told an investor conference in 2008. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Exactly how much money is unknown to anyone outside the Trump Organization, because of the president’s repeated refusal to embrace financial transparency. But the pattern of Trump wealth-seeking in Russia has been widely reported, including the multimillion-dollar windfall profit gained from the sale of a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch at a particularly tense time in the Trump family finances—the same period when he was lending his name to such shabby operations as Trump University and Trump Steaks.
Michael Flynn spoke at the 10th anniversary dinner of Russia’s global propaganda network, RT, in December 2015—after the Russian annexation of Crimea, invasion of mainland Ukraine, and the shooting down of a Malaysian civilian airliner by Russian-backed militias.
Flynn is the third Trump associate to resign because of the revelation of close connections to the Russian state: Paul Manafort and Carter Page preceded him. Will more follow?
The question here is not about the Logan Act: “Did Flynn conduct U.S. foreign policy in a too hasty way, without waiting for his formal swearing in?”
The question is whether a senior American official was compromised by his relationship with a foreign government. And, even more troublingly: Are there others? And even more urgently: How high up the chain of command does Russia’s influence go?