A bipartisan group of senators will try to force nearly two dozen votes rebuking the Trump administration’s decision to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and sell billions of dollars of munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The legislation, led by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally and once a staunch defender of the kingdom, underscores lawmakers’ fury at the administration’s support for the Saudis after the killing of the dissident Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And it could grind business in the Senate to a crawl while allowing rare public criticism of President Trump’s administration from members of his own party.
It is an encouraging sign that the Senate is willing to fight back against the president’s outrageous abuse of power. The president’s eagerness to continue arming the Saudis and Emiratis as they devastate Yemen with their bombing campaign is appalling, and the fact that he is trying to go around Congress to do this after both houses voted to end U.S. involvement in this atrocious war is insulting and unjustified. There is no “emergency” that requires these arms sales to be rushed through without Congressional review. The president’s abuse of this provision in the law is one of many instances when he has invoked national security when there is no legitimate reason to do so. The Senate should disapprove of all of these arms sales to make clear to the president that his latest abuse is unacceptable, and if they can get enough votes to block the sales outright they should do so. The next thing to do is to close this loophole in the law so that the president won’t be able to do this again. Congress needs to keep putting pressure on the administration to end all illegal U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen, and disapproving these arms sales is one way to do that.
The Post‘s report on the Senate’s plans included another important detail on a separate matter involving Saudi Arabia:
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), citing information from the Department of Energy, announced Tuesday that the Trump administration had allowed U.S. nuclear energy companies to share technology and other information with Saudi Arabia on Oct. 18, 2018 — just 16 days after Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul — and again Feb. 18, 2019, less than a week after the House voted to end U.S. backing for the Saudi-led military effort in Yemen’s civil war.
The U.S. shouldn’t be sharing nuclear technology with the Saudis. The administration certainly shouldn’t have been doing this in recent months while the Saudi government was brazenly lying to everyone about their actions. The Saudi government can’t be trusted to use precision-guided munitions responsibly, so why would we think they should be entrusted with sensitive nuclear technology? The administration’s allowance of this technology transfer is another egregious example of giving a despotic client whatever they want without any consideration of the consequences.
Trump’s ongoing subservience to the Saudis and the UAE is remarkable and calls for closer scrutiny from Congress as well. How is it that president seems beholden to the preferences of these two clients on practically every regional issue? Sen. Kaine has similar concerns:
“President Trump’s eagerness to give the Saudis anything they want, over bipartisan congressional objection, harms American national security interests.”
Is this simply extraordinarily poor judgment and stupidity on the part of the president and his officials, or is it something else?