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Did Barack Obama violate the law by visiting 10 Downing Street? Explaining the Logan Act

Former US President Barack Obama on Monday paid a ‘courtesy’ visit to No.10 Downing Street to meet UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Jane Hartley, at Downing Street in London, Britain, March 18, 2024. (REUTERS)

Obama, who served as president from 2009 to 2017, arrived in the UK to discuss the work of the Obama Foundation, his non-profit organisation, with Sunak. They both spoke about a range of topics, including artificial intelligence, over cups of tea.

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As he was leaving Downing Street after a one hour meeting, Obama didn’t respond to reporters’ questions, stating he was “tempted” to respond when asked about his views on Russia. He last visited Downing Street in 2016.

Also Read: ‘Barack Obama is on the case’, Netizens link ex-US president’s Downing Street visit to Kate conspiracy

Obama’s meeting with Sunak sparks MAGA theories

Following Obama’s UK visit, Make America Great Again (MAGA) supporters raised question over his ‘undisclosed private meeting’ with Sunak and even accused him of violating ‘The Logan Act’.

Laura Loomer, a staunch Donald Trump supporter, queried on X (formerly Twitter), “Why is Obama having private meetings with world leaders?”

Another user said that meeting ahead of the November elections made it evident that the current Biden government was Obama’s “third term.”‘

A third user even went on to call Biden a “puppet” of Obama.

“Because Obama has never stopped being POTUS. We know he’s pulling the strings with Biden,” one more chimed in.

The meeting also comes amid speculations that Obama’s wife Michelle may run for presidency in light of mounting concerns about Joe Biden’s age and mental fitness.

The former First Lady has yet to make any formal announcement on it. But her office recently dismissed the reports.

Also Read: ‘I am terrified’: Michelle Obama reveals her biggest fears about 2024 presidential race

As Obama is not part of the Biden administration, it’s difficult to picture anything more than an informal talk over a cup of English tea.

Meanwhile, one X user slammed MAGA for keeping mum when ex-US President Donald Trump held a meeting with Hungary PM Viktor Orbán at Mar-a-Lago.

What is the Logan Act and what does it have to do with Barack Obama?

The Logan Act was one of the topics that drew attention during Obama’s brief visit to the UK. It is suspected that Obama did not receive formal consent from the US government to meet Sunak, which would be a breach of The Logan Act. According to the law, people who infringe it “shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than three years, or both.”

It is a federal law of the United States that prevents Americans to engage with foreign governments or leaders without the government’s consent.

The act, which was passed in 1799, is named after George Logan, a Pennsylvania state politician and pacifist who had unauthorised discussions with France during the period of quasi-war between the US and France.

In the recent past, several people have been accused of breaching the act, including SpaceX CEO Elon Musk for his blatant meddling in the Russia-Ukraine war. While the act has been in place for nearly 200 years, only two people have ever been charged with violating it but none of them was convicted.

It is highly unlikely that the government would attempt to apply the legislation to Obama in this circumstance.

Many people have raised voice against the law’s constitutionality, with The Federalist Society claiming that The Logan Act undermines free expression rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. There are also issues regarding the law’s effectiveness, considering its lack of enforcement despite technical breaches over the years.

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