White House Pushed To Share Nuclear Technology With Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Map
Erce / Shutterstock

House Democrats are investigating reports that the Trump Administration circumvented usual policy processes to broker a deal providing critical nuclear to Saudi Arabia, the New York Times reports. According to a congressional report released Tuesday, senior White House advisors including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn were working on a nuclear export plan that external policy experts say could have put nuclear weapons in the hands of Saudi Arabia. Such a transfer of technology may have violated multiple laws in place to cease nuclear proliferation.

Flynn’s role, in particular, may have been problematic from a conflict of interest standpoint, as he had worked with a private company promoting the plan prior to joining the administration and continued to advocate for the move once beginning as a national security advisor.

The concerns were released by the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the form of a 24-page report citing information from multiple whistleblowers.

“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,” reads the report.

This won’t be the first inquiry into the relationship between the Trump administration and the Saudis, though House Democrats may expand existing investigations to specifically include the possibility private business deals have been directly influencing U.S. foreign policy. The cited whistleblowers claim that private interests were working so closely in the deal that companies were in fact drafting presidential memos that would need to be issued in order to facilitate the nuclear export plan.

According to the report, a Flynn deputy, Derek Harvey, was requesting that National Security Council personnel include details of their plan in a presidential briefing to prepare for a call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia less than a week after the Trump presidency began. Such a request would have short-circuited traditional procedural steps such as review by the State and Energy Departments. Flynn allegedly pushed forward with the request even after concerns were raised by ethics lawyers within the administration.

Jared Kushner, the president’s advisor and son-in-law, was supposedly the one intended to brief Trump on the matter. Kushner is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia next week as part of the administration’s Middle East peace plan.

Republicans so far have reacted with caution to the report, indicating that they had not reviewed a copy of it themselves until Monday night.

“This is a delicate and nuanced issue that Chairman Cummings is approaching without bipartisan input and with far-flung requests for information,” spokeswoman Charli Huddleston said.