A new report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee released on Tuesday shows that President Donald Trump’s appointees were working to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia while also pushing to circumvent non-proliferation standards that would prevent the country from building nuclear weapons.
The report follows a trail of money between Saudi Arabia and several people inside Trump’s circle. It sheds light on the troubling ways the president’s appointees have been rushing “the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the Atomic Energy Act and without review by Congress as required by law.”
By law, the United States can’t sell or transfer nuclear technologies to any country that does not sign a “123 Agreement” with the State Department. The civilian nuclear agreement sets non-proliferation standards to prevent a given country from building nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia has not agreed to sign such an agreement, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has openly said he would seek nuclear weapons if he thought Iran had done the same. (This would be in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.)
Saudi Arabia’s plans to build nuclear reactors have raised concerns among both Democrats and Republican in Congress, and now, whistleblowers, who came forward to share what troubled them with the committee.
The report connects the following dots:
- Westinghouse Electric, the only U.S. entity bidding to build the Saudi reactors (in direct competition with Russia, China, and South Korean companies) has direct ties to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has a very close relationship with the Saudi crown prince. Westinghouse is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, which happens to be the company that bailed Kushner’s family out of the debt-quicksand it was in with its 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.
- General Michael Flynn was an adviser to IP3 International, a private company set up, it seems, exclusively for the purposes of building nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia. Flynn was doing this at the exact time that he was Trump’s national security adviser during his campaign, and continued to push for the IP3 project even after he was White House staff.
- Derek Harvey, President Trump’s Senior Director for Middle East and North African Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) from January to July 2017, said that Flynn had already developed his “Middle East Marshall Plan” and that the decision to adopt IP3’s nuclear plan had already been made by Flynn.
- His staff told Harvey that this can’t just be a done deal, that Saudi Arabia has to sign onto a 123 Agreement, but he “reportedly ignored these warnings and insisted that the decision to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia had already been made.” They pushed this plan forward until the NSC’s Ethics Counsel and legal advisers pointed to Flynn’s conflict of interest as potential violation of criminal conflict of interest statute, ordering NSC staff to stop working on the plan.
- But Harvey continued to work on it, saying he spoke to Flynn regularly.
- Thomas Barrack, a senior campaign adviser to Trump, has openly talked about buying a portion of Westinghouse (which, again, is interested in building the Saudi reactors, pouring money into the pockets of yet another person in Trump’s immediate sphere). Citing reporting from the New York Times, the report notes that Barrack, a senior campaign adviser to Trump, has raised about $1.7 billion from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for his own company since Trump won the nomination.
The deal is still very much in play. Trump met with energy experts at the White House last week to discuss sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, set up by IP3. Kushner is going to Saudi Arabia later this month to discuss the “economic portion” of his Middle East peace plan.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, Energy Secretary Rick Perry (who also openly promoted Westinghouse’s bid) has been trying to negotiate this deal with Saudi Arabia, getting the Gulf Kingdom to sign the 123 Agreement. That’s tricky given that the Trump administration seems to want something in return: A piece of the action in the action in Saudi’s nuclear plants.
The House oversight committee plans to further investigate the actions of the Trump administration to see if they 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.”
The Trump administration has an especially cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia its crown prince, defending the Gulf Arab kingdom’s troubling and deadly footprint in Yemen’s civil war, ignoring U.S. intelligence connecting its government to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and turning a blind eye to its gross human rights violations.