National Security & Defense

House Dems to Investigate Trump Admin’s Proposed Saudi Nuclear Deal

Representative Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) speaks with reporters in Washington, D.C., March 8, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee announced Tuesday the opening of an investigation into a Trump administration plan to facilitate the construction of nuclear-power plants in Saudi Arabia despite concerns that the plan would jeopardize national security.

House Democrats, citing the testimony of numerous anonymous whistleblowers, laid out their concerns about the White House’s continued support for the proposal in a 24-page report released Tuesday.

Former national-security adviser Michael Flynn worked closely with IP3 International, a firm founded by former U.S. generals, to develop the plan throughout the Trump campaign and transition and into the early days of the administration. After Flynn left the White House in February 2017, National Security Council (N.S.C.) personnel continued to develop the plan despite the strenuous objections of N.S.C. ethics officials and attorneys.

Thomas Barrack, who served as chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, also helped lead efforts to establish U.S. support for the construction of nuclear-power plants in Saudi Arabia, an undertaking he referred to as “the Middle East Marshall Plan” in a memo obtained by the Committee. Barrack, who never received an administration post, apologized last week after claiming that the U.S. engaged in “equal or worse” atrocities to those committed by the Saudi government during a speech in Abu Dhabi.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry also advocated the development of nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia, telling Congress in May 2018, “We tried to really drive home to the crown prince . . . that if you want the best reactors in world, you have to come to the United States and you have to use Westinghouse.” Westinghouse, which manufactures nuclear reactors, was acquired as a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management in 2018, just months before Brookfield took over the lease on the debt-ridden property of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Representative Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), who chairs the Oversight Committee, called on the then-Republican chair of the panel in November 2017 to investigate the claims brought to him by a whistleblower but was rebuffed.

Cummings’s investigation will focus on whether the plan — which, according to the report, is still under consideration — is intended to “serve those who stand to gain financially as a result of this potential change in US foreign policy.” Congressional investigators will also examine whether the proposal would violate the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which requires that Congress approve the export of nuclear material.

“Further investigation is needed to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump Administration are in the national security interest of the United States or, rather, serve those who stand to gain financially as a result of this potential change in U.S. foreign policy,” Cummings’s staff wrote in the report.

Republicans on the panel claimed that they did not contribute to the report and did not have an opportunity to review it until Monday night.

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