The BBC is reporting this morning that investigators in Democratic-led House committees have begun to investigate a Trump administration plan to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia. As the investigation unfolds it is likely that it will target both presidential son in law Jared Kushner and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry are among the Trump officials who urged the president to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia despite warnings that doing so could harm America’s national security interests.
H. R. McMaster, the former head of the National Security Council advised the administration against selling nuclear capability to Saudi Arabia, as did White House lawyers.
But the matter was discussed with Trump in the Oval Office as recently as last week, indicating that the national security warnings are being ignored by Trump and other administration officials.
The news about the Saudi Arabian nuclear program was released to the public by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings.
A report issued by Cummings’ committee claims that Westinghouse Electric would have reaped significant financial benefits from a nuclear power plant deal with Saudi Arabia. This information is important because Westinghouse Electric is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, a company that provided financial relief in the form of much-needed loans to Kushner.
It appears that Kushner has been involved in negotiating on behalf of Saudi Arabia, and against the security interests of the United States. And it appears that he has received great financial benefits from doing so.
According to the Oversight Committee report:
“Multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush 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 — efforts that may be ongoing to this day.”
The committee report also noted that the whistleblowers “warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction and backbiting.” They also said that many White House appointees would ignore orders from ethics officials to stop engaging in controversial or potentially illegal activities.
Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been a source of controversy throughout his presidency. Even GOP members of Congress have been critical of Trump’s relationship with the Saudi’s, who are believed to have given Trump significant financial backing in his business ventures.
A few weeks ago Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said “it is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms.”
Graham added, “While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic. I fully realize we have to deal with bad actors and imperfect situations on the international stage. However, when we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset.”
Despite these concerns, Kushner has contined to reach out to Saudi Arabia. Kushner has also been accused of supporting a military blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after that country refused to help him finance his 666 Fifth Avenue property (which was later supported by Brookfield Asset Management in a 99-year lease).
Trump also excluded Saudi Arabia from his controversial Muslim ban in 2017, as well as other predominantly Muslim countries with which the Trump Organization is doing business.
Kushner, will be touring the Middle East this month to discuss the economics of the Trump administration’s peace plan for the troubled region.
Democratic members of Congress have been critical of the plan being promoted by Kushner since it would violate US laws guarding against the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used to support a weapons program.
Many people also think that giving Saudi Arabia access to nuclear technology will start a dangerous arms race in the Middle East. But this doesn’t appear to matter to either Jared Kushner or Donald Trump, so long as they will personally benefit from the deal.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.