Top Democrat Says Trump Administration Is Considering New Saudi Weapons Deal
Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a Wednesday op-ed that the Trump administration is looking to make another weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, despite scrutiny over its previous arms deal by the State Department’s former inspector general.
According to CNN, Menendez said the new deal includes "thousands more precision-guided bombs to the President's 'friend,' Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."
The Democrat wrote that he “received draft State Department documentation that it is now pursuing this previously undisclosed sale -- details of which have not yet been made public.”
He added that the administration is pursuing the deal “even though the Saudis seemingly want out of their failed and brutal war in Yemen, and despite the fact that a bipartisan majority in Congress rejected previous sales of these weapons.”
According to Menendez, the Trump 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.”
Menendez did not reveal how he obtained the documents but did note that efforts toward a new deal follow President Donald Trump’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick earlier this month, reportedly at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
CNN reported that “Linick had nearly completed an investigation into Pompeo's move last May to bypass Congress and expedite billions of dollars in arms sales to various countries -- including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- by declaring an emergency.”
The deal drew bipartisan criticism, particularly as it came after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said earlier this month: "I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick's firing. His office was investigating -- at my request -- Trump's phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia. We don't have the full picture yet, but it's troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed.”
Pompeo also “refused to sit for an interview with the State Department inspector general's office as part of its probe into last year's arms deal,” according to a congressional aide who spoke with CNN.
Menendez said the Trump administration has not yet offered justification for its continued weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and has called on Pompeo to answer Congress’ questions.