Trump to bypass Congress over Saudi arms sale

A Democrat tweeted that Trump was considering the loophole in the Arms Control Export Act to clear the sales

By Reuters in Washington
  • Published 26.05.19, 12:25 AM
  • Updated 26.05.19, 12:25 AM
  • a min read
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President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the National Association of REALTORS Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo, on May 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo)

US President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, swept aside objections from Congress on Friday to complete the sale of over $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudis, UAE and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

Members of Congress had been blocking sales of offensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for months, angry about the huge civilian toll from their air campaign in Yemen, as well as human rights abuses such as the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Lawmakers and congressional aides warned earlier this week that Trump, frustrated with Congress holding up weapons deals including the sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia, was considering using a loophole in arms control law to go ahead by declaring a national emergency.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove ... There is no new ‘emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen, and doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there,” said Senator Chris Murphy.

Murphy, a Democrat, made public on Twitter on Wednesday that Trump was considering the loophole in the Arms Control Export Act to clear the sales.

Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future Presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

Representative Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the administration’s action was “unfortunate” and likely to damage future White House interactions with Congress.

“I would have strongly preferred for the administration to utilise the long-established and codified arms sale review process,” McCaul said. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a statement that US partners in West Asia needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran, and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event”.