“The Trump administration, following new Iranian activity that concerned American intelligence and national-security officials, sent ships and B-52 bombers to the region in a show of force. That move fed fears of military conflict between the two powers.

“Three Obama officials who worked closely on the Iran nuclear deal, one of whom is still in touch with Iranian government officials, traveled to Capitol Hill to brief congressional Democrats about the situation. Those former officials said would not say if they passed information from Iranian government officials to members of Congress. Rather, they said they focused on educating members about their experience working with Iranian leaders and how Tehran reacts to economic pressure.

“Several former officials who spoke to The Daily Beast stressed that their discussions with their Iranian contacts were “normal.” But in other corners, these kind of talks cause alarm. A Republican congressional aide who works on Iran policy told The Daily Beast the conversations may run counter to the Trump administration’s messaging to the Iranian government.

“It’s not just about what they were saying to the Iranians,” the aide said. “It’s about what they were saying to their political allies back here in the U.S. Their strategy was to divide and isolate the Trump administration just as the Trump administration was trying to re-establish deterrence with Iran. In the current highly partisan political environment, the only safe course is to signal national unity—and they contributed to eroding that at home and abroad.”

“Conversations of this nature sometimes generate fervid conversations about an obscure piece of legislation, passed in 1799 and never once enforced, called the Logan Act. It’s been more than 150 years since anyone has been charged with breaking it, as History Today notes, and nobody has ever been convicted over it.

“The Logan Act bars people outside the U.S. government from engaging in unauthorized diplomatic talks on its behalf. When Gen. Michael Flynn spoke with Russian officials between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day to urge them not to retaliate against new U.S. sanctions, some suggested he could be charged with breaking that law (he wasn’t). The likelihood that former Obama officials could face such a charge is basically zero percent; the likelihood that some of their critics may bring it up, on the other hand, is reasonably high.