To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Thursday, May 23, 2024


‘May I Have Your Attention, Class?’


Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson writes a daily newsletter of political commentary. She shares these free “Letters from an American” with her Substack subscribers. [There’s another version available through a paid subscription.] With excellent clarity, she puts the day’s issues in historical context. Her regular readers, including me, are like lucky students sitting in the classroom of a gifted teacher.

One of Cox Richardson’s early April posts is important enough to quote from at length.* In it, she mentions the bipartisan bill that would authorize aid to Ukraine. The U.S. Senate passed this bill in February by a vote of 70-29. As Sen. Susan Collis, R-ME, said at the time, getting it through Congress so the president can sign it into law is “of profound importance to America’s security.” Unmoved, the speaker of the House of Representatives is blocking it.

“The measure would pass in the House by a bipartisan vote,” Cox Richardson reminds us, “but House speaker Mike Johnson, R-LA, has refused to take it up, acting in concert with Trump” [emphasis mine]. While Johnson insists Trump is not calling the shots, his denial is not convincing.

Cox Richardson then highlights more of Trumps’ ongoing audacious, behind-the-scenes interference. Citing various sources, she writes:

On March 24, on Washington Week, foreign affairs journalist Anne Applebaum said: “Trump has decided that he doesn’t want money to go to Ukraine… It’s really an extraordinary moment; we have an out-of-power ex-president who is in effect dictating American foreign policy on behalf of a foreign dictator or with the interests of a foreign dictator in mind.” 

On Thursday, March 28, Beth Reinhard, Jon Swaine, and Aaron Schaffer of the Washington Post reported that Richard Grenell, an extremist who served as Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, has been traveling around the world to meet with far-right foreign leaders, “acting as a kind of shadow secretary of state, meeting with far-right leaders and movements, pledging Trump’s support and, at times, working against the current administration’s policies.”

Grenell, the authors say, is openly laying the groundwork for a president who will make common cause with authoritarian leaders and destroy partnerships with democratic allies. Trump has referred to Grenell as “my envoy,” and the Trump camp has suggested he is a frontrunner to become secretary of state if Trump is reelected in 2024. 

She continues:

Applebaum was right: it is extraordinary that we have a former president who is now out of power running his own foreign policy. 

Trump is conducting his own foreign policy, and it runs dead against what the administration, the Pentagon, and a majority of senators and representatives think is best for the nation. 

Zeroing in on this, Cox Richardson provides a historical comparison:

Trump is weakening the nation internationally to gain power at home. In that, he is retracing the steps of George Logan, who in 1798 as a private citizen set off for France to urge French officials to court popular American opinion in order to help throw George Washington’s party out of power and put Thomas Jefferson’s party in. 

Congress recognized that inviting foreign countries to interfere on behalf of one candidate or another would turn the United States into a vassal state, and when Logan arrived back on U.S. shores, he discovered that Congress had passed a 1799 law we now know as the Logan Act, making his actions a crime. 

The law reads: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

Professor Cox Richardson is teaching her readers an important History lesson. If this were her classroom, she might be asking, “How many have heard of the Logan Act without quite knowing what it is?” [I’d be among those who raise their hands.] After explaining it, our teacher might then say: “Now, who here may be violating the Logan Act?”

As I imagine it, the class would awkwardly turn to stare at a slovenly student in the back of the room. He has weird hair and an orange complexion. It takes him a moment to notice he’s being stared at. Then he petulantly stands, shouting, “Fake law!” and stomps out of the room.

Classroom scenario aside, Donald Trump is not a good student of history. Is he setting himself up for more legal woes? Despite his numerous indictments, he appears to be blatantly undermining – if not outright violating – the Logan Act.

Who will hold him accountable? Congress? The courts? The DOJ? [I hear crickets.] If no one else does, come November, it’s got to be the voters.

We are the principal of this particular school.

*The full “Letters from an American” post excerpted above can be found on Substack here: April 2, 2024. Interested readers can subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s daily newsletter [free or paid version] here: Heather Cox Richardson | Substack.


Kevin Acers
Kevin Acers
Kevin Acers is a social worker, educator, and poet living in Oklahoma City. He is a former board member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
Exceptional reporting about goings on in my home state as well as informative opinion pieces that makes people think about issues of the day...........get a SUBSCRIPTION FOLKS!!!!!!!
Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.