— -- A petition on whitehouse.gov calling for charges to be filed against the 47 senators who sent an open letter to the leaders of Iran, possibly in violation of the Logan Act, has collected more than 165,000 signatures in less than two days.
Because the petition exceeded 100,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House is required to respond.
The creator of this petition, known only by the initials C.H., alleges that the 47 senators “committed a treasonous offense when they decided to violate the Logan Act, a 1799 law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.”
The letter, which was published on Monday, warned Iranian leaders that any nuclear deal they sign with President Obama won’t last past his second term.
Jerome Barron, a professor of Constitutional Law at George Washington University, told ABC News in an interview that he finds the senators’ letter “disrespectful,” but he does not believe the senators have committed treason.
“They would make the argument the Logan Act doesn’t apply because they are one of the three branches of government and although the they don’t have the major role of foreign relations, they do, after all, as the senate, confirm treaties,” Barron said. “It’s true this is an executive agreement, but they [the Senate] have some role I suppose. I don’t think they’re in violation of the Logan Act.”
When asked about the potential violation of the Logan Act, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest highlighted the authority of the Department of Justice.
“For a determination like that, I'd refer you to the Department of Justice. It ultimately would be their responsibility to make that kind of determination,” Earnest said today in the White House briefing room. “I know that there's been a lot of speculation about this, but I'm not aware of any conversations about the Logan Act in its relation to this specific matter that have taken place here at the White House.”
And while Earnest redirected the inquiry about the potential Logan Act violation for now, the White House will have to make an official response to the petition.
ABC News' Justin Fishel contributed to this report