Intel: Trump administration pursues new Saudi arms deal despite investigation

May 27, 2020

The Donald Trump administration is doubling down with a new arms deal for Saudi Arabia despite an investigation into last year’s $8 billion emergency weapons sale to Riyadh, a key Senate Democrat revealed in a CNN op-ed today.

“Before we went into pandemic lockdown, I received draft State Department documentation that it is now pursuing this previously undisclosed sale — details of which have not yet been made public — even though the Saudis seemingly want out of their failed and brutal war in Yemen, and despite the fact that bipartisan majority in Congress rejected previous sales of these weapons,” wrote Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. “The administration has refused to answer our fundamental questions to justify this new sale and articulate how it would be consistent with US values and national security objectives.”

Why it matters: Menendez’s revelation indicates that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is largely undeterred by the scrutiny he has received for convincing President Trump to oust State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was investigating last year’s emergency arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Pompeo, who refused to do an interview with Linick on the $8 billion sale before his ouster, denies that it was an act of retaliation.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment upon or confirm proposed defense sales until they have been formally notified to Congress,” a State Department spokesperson told Al-Monitor.

What’s next: After Pompeo cited Iran in last year’s emergency arms sale, Menendez mustered enough Republican support last year to pass legislation blocking the $8 billion deal for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, Congress did not have enough votes to override Trump’s vetoes, illustrating the challenges lawmakers will have in blocking any new arms deal.

Know more: The Trump administration and Congress are also embroiled in another fight over Saudi policy. Democrats are launching a bid to force the intelligence community to declassify a report listing every Saudi official complicit in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Bryant Harris reports.

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