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Trump decision under congressional scrutiny


President Donald Trump defended his decision not to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or cut arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. insisting it would be “foolish” to cut ties. (Nov. 20)

WASHINGTON – House Democrats will grill a top State Department official Wednesday on the Trump administration’s controversial decision to sell $8.1 billion in bombs and other U.S.-made weapons to Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the weapons deal last month and said the administration would side-step Congress’s objection to the sale by deeming it a “national security emergency.” The move infuriated lawmakers in both parties, who argue that Saudi Arabia has become an unreliable ally more deserving of a rebuke than a reward.

The Saudi arms sale will be front and center on Wednesday during a hearing before House Foreign Affairs Committee, where R. Clarke Cooper, the State Department’s assistant secretary for political-military affairs, is scheduled to testify.

Cooper will aggressively defend the deal, which involves a series of 22 arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, according to excerpts of his testimony released by the State Department.

“These sales and the associated emergency certification are intended to address the military need of our partners in the face of an urgent regional threat posed by Iran,” Cooper will tell the committee. “This action is not intended to be an escalatory military step; instead, it is a loud and clear message to Iran that we stand by our regional partners.”

Cooper’s testimony comes after a bipartisan group of senators – including South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies in the Senate – said they would try to block the sale by forcing 22 votes disapproving each one. 

That unusual move is unlikely to succeed in killing the $8.1 billion deal. President Donald Trump can veto the disapproval measures, and Congress would need a two-thirds super-majority to override that.

But the votes will be a highly public rebuke of Trump. And they will showcase the growing unease among lawmakers in both parties with the president’s cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia, despite the kingdom’s role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post columnist. 

Sens. Senators Todd Young, R-Ind., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced the first of the 22 measures on Monday. They have both expressed concern about the Saudis’ conduct in the war in Yemen, which has left thousands of civilians dead and created an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

“This administration has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis – turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic missile program to expand,” Murphy said in a statement Monday. “Congress needs to change how we do business with the Kingdom. The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale.”

‘Not the time to do business as usual’ with Saudis: Senators to rebuke Trump over arms sales

Trump, Congress clash over Yemen war. What to know about America’s role in the Mideast conflict

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