The Logan Act.

Early modern European politics focused on the competition of “factions” organized around powerful individuals, rather than on “parties” organized around competing ideologies.  Hence, the Founding Fathers did not expect political parties to occupy the political system created by the Constitution.  Things didn’t work out as expected.[1]

Early National American politics quickly polarized into Federalists and Democratic-Republicans.  The two parties reflected different strands of the American Revolution in terms of attitudes to the power of the central government and of social groups.  However, the party competition also incited a degree of personal animus that challenged the generally desired rationality of the time.

In a further surprise, although the Patriots had sought to separate themselves from Europe, foreign affairs repeatedly intruded into the political life of the Early Republic.  An anti-monarchical revolution in France initially won broad support in America, then took a radical turn that divided Americans.  Opinion quickly swung from “Oh, they’re like us” to “What if that could happen here?”  Then war broke out between the new French Republic and, well, almost everyone.  Most important to the United States of all the combatants was Britain because of the Royal Navy’s control of the seas and of the trade that used those seas.  Federalists came to loathe the French Revolution and see a natural alignment with Britain, while the Democratic-Republicans sympathized with the aspirations of the sister-republic and put down its excesses to a temporary war expedient.

The debates on these matters between the two parties quickly soured.  Since the Federalists held the White House from 1789 to 1801, they had charge of American foreign policy.  Three things then happened: the Americans and the French fell into a naval Quasi-War (1798-1800)[2]; the Democratic-Republican press made the Federalists the butt of withering attacks[3]; and the Federalists rammed through a battery of “Alien and Sedition Acts” intended to stifle opposition voices.[4]  The Alien and Sedition Acts contributed to a revulsion against the Federalists that brought the Democratic-Republicans into power in 1801.

Although not normally lumped with the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Logan Act (1799) fits well with the general Federalist effort to squash political opposition.  George Logan,[5] a Democratic-Republican with a lifetime of poor judgement behind him, had made a purely personal visit to France during the Quasi-War in hopes of patching things up.   The Logan Act criminalized private individuals interfering in relations between the United States and other countries.  Unlike the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Logan Act neither sunsetted nor was repealed.


How has the Logan Act been applied?  Citing the Logan Act is wrapping oneself in the flag to harass political opponents.

In 1803, France controlled the mouth of the Mississippi river and obstructed American trade through the port of New Orleans.  Western farmers became exasperated with the barrier to getting their crops to market.  A farmer gave public voice to what must have been common tavern conversation after the second mug of rye.  He wrote a letter to a newspaper arguing that Kentucky should secede from the Union and form an alliance with France.  The newspaper published it.  The outraged United States Attorney in Kentucky—a Federalist hold-over from the Adams administration–got a grand jury to indict the farmer.  It never went any further than that.  Would have had to put him in front of a jury of locals.[6]

After service with the U.S. Navy in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the Philadelphia-born Jewish-American merchant and sea captain Jonas Levy (1807-1883) stayed on in Mexico.  He came from a family of enterprising people and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  Looking for business opportunities, he proposed to the Mexican government to build a railroad from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  The isthmus is the narrowest point of Mexico and the Pacific end passes through a gap in the Sierra Madre.  Lots of people wanted to build a railroad there, but one group was in Washington and had the ear of Secretary of State Daniel Webster.  But Levy was on the ground, spoke Spanish, and was very go-ahead.  In 1852, Levy pitched it to the Mexican government.  The Mexicans seemed inclined to go with Levy’s plan, so Webster exerted pressure on behalf of the “American” plan.  Levy wrote to the president of Mexico arguing for his own proposal.  When American diplomats reported this to Washington, Webster got Levy indicted.  The trouble was he didn’t have any evidence, just hearsay.  The indictment went nowhere.

Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) made a fortune as a mining engineer, did a fantastic job organizing American civilian relief aid for Europe in the First World War, served as Secretary of Commerce, and won election as President in 1928.  Then the Depression hit and he got creamed in the 1932 election.  Hoover stomped off into retirement to sulk and fulminate against Franklin D. Roosevelt and all his works.  When the Second World War first broke out, Roosevelt offered Hoover an olive branch in the form of co-ordinating American relief for European civilians.  Hoover turned down the offer, but only because he hated Roosevelt.  He got busy organizing his own program of relief for Poland and then for Belgium.  By mid-1940, the situation had changed.  Poland and France had been defeated, Britain stood alone, and Britain’s naval blockade of Continental Europe offered an important source of pressure on Germany.  Nevertheless, Hoover pressed ahead.  In February 1941, Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles publically warned that Hoover might be in violation of the Logan Act.

More recently, a chain of people have been described as violating the Logan Act.  Some were Democrats: George McGovern, Jesse Jackson, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry.  Some were Republicans: 47 Senators, candidate Donald Trump, and Rudi Giuliani.  None have been prosecuted.

In December 2017, as they prepared to interview National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn, FBI agents discussed trying to get Flynn to admit he had violated the Logan Act.

[1] Richard Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780–1840 (1969).

[2] See: Alexander De Conde, The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1797-1801 (1966).  An oldie, but a goody.

[3] See, for example James Callender.  Michael Durey, With the Hammer of Truth, James Thomson Callender (1990). 

[4] John Miller, Crisis in Freedom: The Alien and Sedition Acts (1951).  Same as De Conde.  The point here is that if the necessary documents are available and a good historian gives them a careful analysis, then most of the subsequent scholarly literature is just an elaboration.

[5] Frederick B. Tolles, George Logan of Philadelphia (1953).

[6] In much political theory, Senators serving six-year terms and appointed officials are supposed to have a braking effect on “populist” impulsiveness and passion.  However, the opposite may also be true.

Sturmvogel 1 22 February 2020.

In late 2013, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, was being advised by Paul Manafort.[1]  The country was headed toward a widely popular trade deal with the European Union (EU).  That deal, in turn, required Ukraine to make serious efforts against the public and private corruption that had characterized the country since it escaped from the Soviet Union.  Suddenly, Yanukovych announced that the deal with the EU had been abandoned in favor of an alternative deal with Russia.  Crowds, as they say, took to the streets with pitch-forks and fiery brands.  Yanukovych left in his socks.  Manafort lost his client and slunk off into far-from-poverty.  Then Ukraine lost the Crimea and a couple of eastern “oblasts” (administrative districts) to Russian intervention.

Post-Yanukovych Ukraine hoped for help from the West, although it still had the same problem with corruption that the previous agreement had sought to address.  The United States and other Western countries slammed economic sanctions on Russia.  They also agree to provide some “non-lethal” aid to Ukraine’s military.[2]

After the fall of Yanukovych, Alexandra Chalupa reportedly agreed to do some pro-bono work for a Ukrainian client.  In the course of this work and for reasons that have not been explained, she started researching Paul Manafort.  This included digging into the Ukrainian “oligarchs” who had sponsored Yanukovych.  Those oligarchs had been pro-Russian.

Donald Trump sounded very pro-Russian on the campaign trail.  So, in late 2015, when his campaign started to look like it might have legs, Chalupa reportedly doubled-down on investigating Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

In January 2016, long before Manafort had any role in the Trump campaign, Chalupa told an unidentified  contact at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that, “I felt there was a Russia connection” to the Trump campaign.  “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election.”  By early 2016, she was telling the pro-Democrat Ukrainian-Americans with whom she was in contact that Manafort was “Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections.”

During a March 2016 meeting at the Ukrainian Embassy on an unrelated matter, Chalupa told Ukraine’s ambassador, Valeriy Chaly,[3] of her concerns.  The ambassador wasn’t much worried about any links between Manafort and Trump because he didn’t think Trump could win the nomination, let alone the election.[4]

Four days later, Trump hired Manafort as his campaign manager.  Alarms bells started ringing.  The next day, Chalupa made a presentation to the communications staff of the DNC[5] on Trump, Manafort, and possible links between Russia and the campaign.

A week later, Chalupa talked over the possibility of a congressional investigation into the allegations with a legislative assistant to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).  This talk produced no results.

Later, the DNC encouraged Chalupa to contact the embassy of Ukraine.  Her reported goal was an interview with Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko.  It was hoped that Poroshenko would talk about Manafort and his connection to Yanukovych.  She didn’t get the meeting, but embassy officials did provide her with information and further leads.[6]  Thereafter, “If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with.” [But] “There were no documents given, nothing like that.”  In addition, “Chalupa said the embassy also worked directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.”

Accounts by Ukrainian diplomats in the embassy at that time differ from one another.  Either the embassy wasn’t doing anything to help the Democrats investigate Trump and Russia, or they were neck-deep in it.[7]  Andrii Telizhenko,[8] who worked as a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy, has claimed that he “recalled that Chalupa told him and [Deputy Chief of Mission Oksana] Shulyar[9] that, ‘If we can get enough information on Paul [Manafort] or Trump’s involvement with Russia, she can get a hearing in Congress by September [2016]’.”

“In March 2016, [according to an attorney for Perkins Coie] Fusion GPS approached Perkins Coie (a law firm representing both the Clinton campaign and the DNC).  Did Perkins Coie want Fusion GPS to continue the opposition research previously done for a Republican opponent of Donald Trump?  Fusion had, thanks to its earlier work for a contract with a “Never Trump” Republican, a bunch of leads.  These included, according to Jane Mayer, “Trump’s … tax and bankruptcy problems, potential ties to organized crime, and numerous legal entanglements. They also revealed that Trump had an unusually high number of connections to Russians with questionable backgrounds.”[10]  Initially, Fusion GPS focused on Trump’s “business and entertainment activities,” rather than the Russian aspect.[11]

In April 2016, Marc Elias of Perlins Coie agreed to the deal with Fusion GPS.

In late April 2016, Chalupa made a presentation to a group of visiting Ukrainian journalists at an event held at the Library of Congress.[12]  She had invited Michael Isikoff to attend and introduced him to some of the Ukrainians.  Isikoff already was working on Manafort and Ukraine.

In early May 2016, Chalupa e-mailed DNC communications director Luis Miranda about “a big Trump component you and [DNC research director] Lauren [Dillon][13] need to be aware of that will hit in next few weeks and something I’m working on you should be aware of.”  However, her e-mail account had been under sustained attack by a “state-sponsored entity,” so she wanted to present the information in person.

In June 2016, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steel to investigate Trump’s Russia connections, rather than any of the other potential scandals investigated earlier by Fusion GPS.  .


Did Ukrainians alarmed by Donald Trump’s pro-Russian stance on issues feed Alexandra Chalupa information about Trump’s supposed contacts with the Russians?

Did Alexandra Chalupa repeatedly apprise the Democratic National Committee of what she had learned?

Did people at the DNC take these warnings seriously?

Did they hire Fusion GPS to investigate these specific ties, rather than the other ones raised by the earlier Fusion GPS research on behalf of a Republican “Never Trump” sponsor?

Did any of the information provided to Chalupa end up as leads for, or even in, the “Steele Dossier”?

[1] Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” Politico, 11 January 2017.  This article inspired push-back.  See: the article in the  conservative Washington Examiner for some mockery:   On Vogel, see:

[2] A useful starting point on these matters is:

[3] See the—if you’re a follower of Monty Python–comical description in

[4] Nor did I.

[5] On Luis Miranda, then communications director, see:

[6] Hard to understand that unless the ambassador or the foreign minister or the president, Poroshenko, ordered it.

[7] If you spend much time reading about the contemporary Ukraine, you could get the idea that there are a lot of self-interested and devious people in public life.  Makes it difficult to sort out the exact facts.

[8] For a hostile view, see:

[9] See:



[12] On the “Open World Program,” see:

[13] See: