An interim report from the U.S. House Oversight Committee paints a familiar picture of Trump associates skirting the law to curry favor with people who can make them richer. This time, the dealing doesn’t involve Russians but Saudis, and it is not about a lavish tower in Moscow but the sale of nuclear power reactors.
Negotiations were conducted by people who would stand to gain millions, in apparent disregard of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which sets out explicit procedures and criteria for nuclear cooperation agreements and is intended to thwart proliferation of atomic weapons. Their conflicts of interest “could implicate federal criminal statutes,” according to the report.
By ramming through the sale of as much as $80 billion in nuclear power plants, the Trump administration would provide sensitive know-how and materials to a government whose de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has suggested that he may eventually want a nuclear weapon as a hedge against Iran and has shown little concern for what the rest of the world thinks.
The report also warned, “Within the United States, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia — a potential risk to U.S. national security absent adequate safeguards.”
It has been known for some time that the administration has been discussing a nuclear cooperation deal with Saudi Arabia. But it took Democratic control of the House, and the committee, to shine a light on these dark dealings in the report, which draws on claims by multiple whistleblowers and documents.
The Saudis began dangling visions of billion-dollar deals soon after President Donald Trump was elected. In January 2017, IP3 International, a private company that has assembled a consortium of American companies to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia, wrote Prince Mohammed, proposing a “Marshall Plan for the Middle East.”
At the center were Michael Flynn, an adviser to IP3 who continued to push for the nuclear plan after becoming Trump’s first national security adviser, and Thomas Barrack, the president’s billionaire investor friend who last week defended Saudi Arabia’s record of human-rights abuses, saying the U.S. has committed “equal or worse” atrocities.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES