Trump Cites Iran to Bypass Congress on Saudi Arms Sales - NBC Chicago
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Trump Cites Iran to Bypass Congress on Saudi Arms Sales

Critics of the Saudi campaign quickly denounced Friday's step

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Trump Cites Iran to Bypass Congress on Saudi Arms Sales
    AP
    President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    The Trump administration on Friday invoked a rarely used provision in federal law to bypass congressional review of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing threats the kingdom faces from Iran.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress of the decision to use an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers' approval.

    In his notification, Pompeo said he had made the determination "that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale" of the weapons "in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region." He said the transfers "must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East."

    Pompeo's move follows President Donald Trump's announcement that the U.S. plans to send 1,500 additional U.S. troops to the Middle East as part of a build-up in response to an unspecified threat from Iran.

    Watch: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Full Opening Statement at House Hearing on Reparations

    [NATL] Watch: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Full Opening Statement at House Hearing on Reparations

    Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “The Case for Reparations,” testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee during a hearing on whether the United States should consider compensation for the descendants of slaves. 

    He delivered a rebuttal to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's comments that "no one currently alive was responsible for that," which Coates called a "strange theory of governance." 

    "Well into this century the United States was still paying out pensions to the heirs of civil war soldiers," he said. "We honor treaties that date back some 200 years despite no one being alive who signed those treaties. Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for. But we are American citizens and this bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach."

    (Published Wednesday, June 19, 2019)

    It also comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi , a U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

    Khashoggi's slaying, coupled with increasing concerns about civilian casualties resulting from a Saudi-led coalition's military operation against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, prompted lawmakers to block about $2 billion in arms sales to the kingdom for more than a year. Last month, Trump vetoed legislation that would have ended U.S. military assistance for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

    Critics of the Saudi campaign quickly denounced Friday's step.

    Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration did not cite a specific legal or practical reason for using the loophole other than Iran.

    "I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia," Menendez said in a statement.

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who earlier this week warned against bypassing Congress, said the administration was only declaring an emergency because lawmakers would have blocked the transfers.

    Hearing on Reparations Brings Testimony from Actor, Senator, Ex-NFL Player

    [NATL] Hearing on Reparations Brings Testimony from Actor, Senator, Ex-NFL Player

    Watch actor Donald Glover, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former NFL player Owens Burgess testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on whether the United States should consider compensation for the descendants of slaves.

     

    (Published Wednesday, June 19, 2019)

    "President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale," Murphy said. "There is no new 'emergency' reason to sell bombs to the Saudis."

    The law requires Congress to be notified of potential arms sales, giving the body the opportunity to block the sale. But the law also allows the president to waive that review process by declaring an emergency that requires the sale be made "in the national security interests of the United States."

    Menendez and Murphy said they would challenge the decision but it was not immediately clear how they might do that.

    "With this move, the president is destroying the productive and decades-long working relationship on arms sales between the Congress and the executive branch," Menendez said. "The possible consequences of this decision will ultimately threaten the ability of the U.S. defense industry to export arms in a manner that is both expeditious and responsible."

    The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, said he was "reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications."

    There is precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war. 

    20 Candidates. 2 Nights. Breaking Down 1st 2020 Dem. Debates

    [MI-NATL COPY] 20 Candidates. 2 Nights. Breaking Down 1st 2020 Dem. Debates

    The first Democratic primary debates will be held June 26th and 27th - and with 20 candidates expected to debate policy, healthcare, immigration and other issues over the course of two nights, it's anything but conventional. NBC's Darryl Forges breaks it down.

    (Published Wednesday, June 19, 2019)