President Donald Trump’s Cabinet is slowing devolving into chaos after the resignation of Michael Flynn as Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn allegedly spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, about American sanctions against the country back in December — when he was a member of Trump's transition team. These revelations open a big can of worms for the new federal government, not only because he reportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about what was discussed in the conversations, but also because many in Congress and the media aren’t entirely sure about what the administration knew and when they first found out about it. While it’s certain that the retired Army lieutenant general is out of a job, many are wondering if Michael Flynn will be charged with any crimes and whether he actually broke any laws.
There’s a lot to figure out, but it is certainly possible. Under the Logan Act — which forbids private citizens from negotiating foreign relations efforts by communicating with foreign governments — Flynn could face charges because “even the mere discussion of policy" and reported "attempt[s] to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Mr. Trump took office" mark a major breach of protocol, according to The New York Times.
Whether or not Flynn broke the law depends on a few key points of the Logan Act. First, authorities will have to figure out if Flynn was authorized by the acting government to have this phone call, because only the president and the people he’s given the green light have the power to negotiate with other countries. Second, they have to figure out if Flynn lied to Pence and FBI investigators about what was actually discussed during that phone call. Finally, they’ll have to find out if he had an “‘intent to influence a foreign government,” according to CNN.
There’s a lot going against Flynn and one reason is because it was highly unlikely that former President Barack Obama gave him authority to speak on the nation’s behalf, making him a private citizen. Also, U.S. officials confirmed that Flynn and the Russian ambassador did speak about sanctions and he would not have been allowed to do so at the time, according to CNN.
From an outsider's perspective, the case seems solid, but no one in the act's 218-year-old history has ever been prosecuted under it. Ultimately, it's very unlikely that Trump's team, some of whom reportedly have deep ties to Russia, will pursue charges against Flynn, especially under the Logan Act. And even though a number of Democratic and Republican senators have pushed for an investigation into these connections, it may be a bit far-fetched that the new Justice Department will file any charges against Flynn. Only time will tell what might happen to Flynn next, but for now, the scandal isn't going away.