The Trump administration was released Friday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but it was hard to see as the result of national security adviser John Bolton's influence.
Pompeo announced a policy of U.S. Pat. Directly valid for those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel ”and said the administration was already implementing the policy, though it would not name any individuals involved. He cited the authority granted to the secretary of state during the 1990 Immigration Act, to which individuals would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States. including Israelis, and further steps could include economic sanctions.
Bolton previewed these steps in a speech in September. Bolton, a long-time opponent of the court, sees the ICC as a dangerous threat to American sovereignty as well as, somewhat contradictorily, an ineffective and redundant organization. He has called his work to push back against it during the George W. Bush administration "one of my proudest achievements."
While this is a longtime fixation of Bolton's, the State Department's actions were prompted by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's November 2017 request for a formal investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan. ICC investigations look at all actions in a given country rather than a particular actor, so this one could include alleged crimes by the Taliban and Afghan government forces as well as the U.S. Military. While the U.S. is not a party to the ICC, Afghanistan is, so actions committed there fall under the court's remit. However, the court's ability to enforce that remit is notoriously weak, and it is very unlikely U.S. troops would actually go on trial at the hague. In any event, no significant action has been taken on the Afghanistan case since Bolton's speech – judges are still weighing the evidence to decide on Bensouda's request – so it's not quite clear what prompted this latest escalation. Pompeo said only that it was unacceptable that "the prosecutor's request for an investigation remains pending." One of the ICC's judges quit the court in January, partly in protest by the pressure by the Trump administration.
It’s worth noting that U.S. law already includes Credits on ICC agents. The American Service Providers Protection Act, an anti-ICC measure Congress passed in 2002, already prohibited by ICC agents from conducting any inquiries or investigations on U.S. Soil. The new policy takes things a step further, since the ICC personnel are apparently barred before an investigation has started.
The ASPA has been named the "Hague Invasion Act" by opponents because of a clause that authorizes military action to rescue any U.S. citizens who have been detained for prosecution by the court. That used to seem like a far-fetched scenario.