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Menendez on Trump Admin’s Decision to Flout Congress’ Role in Approving Arm Sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

NEWARK – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement after the Trump Administration formally informed Congress that it is invoking an obscure provision of the Arms Export Control Act to eliminate the statutorily-required Congressional review of the sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others, but failed to explain its legal or practical basis for doing so. The unprecedented and legally dubious move breaks a long-standing process designed to ensure that Congress is able to review and disapprove arms sales.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump Administration has failed once again to prioritize our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia.”

“I have kept the Trump administration from selling tens of thousands of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates until they could prove that U.S. assistance and arms sales were improving Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s respect for human rights in Yemen and were in line with U.S. national security interests and values. The Saudi government’s flagrant human rights abuses are clear, as is Muhammad bin Salman’s record of killing innocent people — including Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.  Similarly, reports of the UAE’s human rights abuses in Yemen, as well as its illicit transfers of U.S. military equipment to radical militias, are deeply troubling.  Yet, rather than stand up against those who murdered Jamal Khashoggi and are working against U.S. interests, the Trump Administration decided to do an end run around the Congress and possibly the law.”

“In trying to explain this move, the Administration failed to even identify which legal mechanism it thinks it is using, described years of malign Iranian behavior but failed to identify what actually constitutes an emergency today, and critically, failed to explain how these systems, many of which will take years to come online, would immediately benefit either the United States or our allies and thus merit such hasty action. With this move, the President is destroying the productive and decades-long working relationship on arms sales between the Congress and the Executive Branch. The possible consequences of this decision will ultimately threaten the ability of the U.S. defense industry to export arms in a manner that is both expeditious and responsible.”

“As I repeatedly warned the Trump administration in the lead up to this ill-informed decision, I will fight any effort to further erode Congressional review and oversight of arm sales.  I am in discussion with several Democratic and Republican colleagues and I hope the Senate Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs Committees will soon be able to expeditiously address this latest attack on our Constitutional responsibilities.  The lives of millions of people depend on it.”