From Day One, the relationship between Donald Trump, his associates, and Saudi Arabia has been more than a little sketchy. Major examples include Trump making Saudi Arabia his first stop outside of the U.S.; son-in-law Jared Kushner’s secretive trips to Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; and Trump’s curious defense of the crown prince after news broke that he ordered the gruesome murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi.
Today, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are shedding new light on the troubling relationship between top Trump associates and Saudi Arabia, releasing a new 24-page report that details Trump administration officials’ efforts to give “highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia” over the objections of U.S. intelligence officials, including former national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The plan, originally promoted by Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn (more on that below), is still being discussed and is now driven by Jared Kushner and U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. The plan would create a network of nuclear power plants across Saudi Arabia. Rep. Harley Rouda is vowing to investigate how and why this deal is being considered and who stands to gain financially.
Chaos and dysfunction cannot be allowed to govern our national security. Nuclear proliferation mistakes cannot be undone.
It's time for the White House to get serious about our security, and that means we need to shed sunshine on their relationship with Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/8hzMGq8GTy
— Rep. Harley Rouda (@RepHarley) February 19, 2019
The Washington Post has more of the troubling details from the report.
Claims presented by whistle-blowers and White House documents obtained by the committee show that the company backing the nuclear plan, IP3 International, and allies in the White House were working so closely that the company sent a draft memo to Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, to circulate just days after the inauguration. Mr. Flynn had worked on the plan for IP3 during the Trump campaign and transition, the Democrats said, and continued to advocate for it in the White House.
Even after Mr. Flynn left the White House in February 2017, officials on the National Security Council pushed ahead, the Democrats said, ignoring advice from the N.S.C.’s ethics counsel and other lawyers to cease all work on the plan because of potentially illegal conflicts.
The draft memo also referenced another close Trump associate, Thomas J. Barrack, who served as chairman of the president’s inaugural committee. It said that Mr. Trump had appointed Mr. Barrack as a special representative to implement the plan, which it called “the Middle East Marshall Plan.” The memo also directed agencies to support Mr. Barrack’s efforts.
Once again, Trump’s buddy Tom Barrack is front and center. Barrack was the chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, which is currently under investigation by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Prosecutors are probing to see if officials from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries made illegal contributions to the Trump Inauguration Committee.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a current cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation, was pushing hard for this plan before the inauguration, and even more so afterward. In fact, at the very moment Donald Trump took the oath of office, Michael Flynn was texting an associate that their plan was “good to go.” From a Politico report in December 2017:
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee said in a letter dated Wednesday that the whistleblower reported attending an Inauguration Day event with Flynn’s former business associate Alex Copson, the managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners.
The whistleblower said Copson gushed that Trump’s inauguration was “the best day of my life” because it meant his company’s effort to create a U.S.-Russia energy partnership in the Middle East, which reportedly would have included more than two dozen nuclear plants in the region, was moving forward. Copson said Flynn was making sure Obama-era sanctions, which he claimed threatened the nuclear project, would be “ripped up,” according to the whistleblower.
And the whistleblower said Copson flipped his phone around to reveal a text message he said came from Flynn describing the nuclear reactor project as “good to go.” According to the account, the whistleblower didn’t see the substance of the text but recalled seeing a 12:11 p.m. time stamp. At that time, Flynn was on the dais during Trump’s inaugural address.
These guys couldn’t wait to start cashing in, even at the expense of America’s national security. Now that Democrats have control of the House and the House Oversight Committee, look for this very serious matter to start getting the attention it has always deserved.
Rep. Cummings says their actions may have violated federal law. From NPR:
Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings’s staff issued an “interim staff” report Tuesday, citing “multiple whistleblowers” who raised ethical and legal concerns about the process.
“They have warned about political appointees ignoring directives from top ethics advisers at the White House who repeatedly and unsuccessfully ordered senior Trump administration officials to halt their efforts,” the report states. “They have also warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes.”