Efforts among top Democrats to make hay over claims of Russian culpability in the DNC hack and to try to link the Trump campaign to those efforts have centered on Trump’s comments during a news conference suggesting that if Russia was so good backing the Democrats they might be able to find the 30,000 missing Hillary emails. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack claimed this amounted to a felony.
Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Vilsack told delegations that Trump’s comments were “not legal,” and might have violated the Logan Act, described it as banning Americans from “siding with the enemy,” and adding that “Trump sided with Russia and not with us.”
The Logan Act regulates private correspondence with foreign governments, and bars any attempt to directly or indirectly influence a foreign government “in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.” The Logan Act has only led to one actual indictment in US history, way back in 1803, and even that went no further.
Trump insists he was joking, but even if he wasn’t, his comments appear to fall well outside what the Logan Act is intended to cover, both because an offhand comment at a news conference is obviously not “private correspondence” and because the missing Hillary emails aren’t a dispute between the US and Russia at any rate.