By Jon Dougherty
After regaining control of the House in the November midterms, Democrats promised a slew of ‘new investigations’ into POTUS Donald Trump, his family, and his businesses, and they are beginning to deliver on that pledge.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee has launched a probe into the Trump administration’s efforts to potentially provide nuclear power capabilities to Saudi Arabia “after several whistleblowers expressed concern about efforts to sell the kingdom nuclear technology,” The Hill reported Tuesday, even though the Russian government is far ahead of the U.S. in terms of meeting Riyadh’s objectives.
The committee’s announcement comes following the release of a report by committee staff claiming that senior Trump White House officials have been pushing for the sale of nuclear technology to the Saudis in spite of warnings from ethics advisers and national security officials.
“Based on this snapshot of events, the committee is now launching an investigation to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump administration are in the national security interests of the United States or, rather, serve those who stand to gain financially as a result of this potential change in U.S. foreign policy,” the report said.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who was a regular thorn in the side of former GOP chair and now Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), has sent letters to a number of people and federal agencies in order to continue the probe. Letters have gone to the White House, the CIA, the Flynn Intel Group — headed by former Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, POTUS Trump’s first national security adviser — IP3, and the Commerce, Energy, Defense, State, and Treasury departments.
The committee staff report cites a number of alleged unnamed whistleblowers who claim they witnessed “abnormal acts” while inside the White House in regards to efforts to sell Saudi Arabia nuclear energy reactors.
The whistleblowers “have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes,” the report said. “They have also warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction, and backbiting.
“And they have warned about political appointees ignoring directives from top ethics advisors at the White House who repeatedly and unsuccessfully ordered senior Trump administration officials to halt their efforts.”
Cummings’ letter to the White House gave the administration until March 5 to turn over requested documents related to the nuclear power plan, dubbed the Middle East Marshall Plan, dating from the president’s inauguration until the present.
At one point, the National Security Council concluded that Flynn’s involvement may constitute a conflict of interest and a violation of existing law.
“As a result, NSC Legal Advisor John Eisenberg instructed NSC staff to cease all work on the plan,” said the staff report.
But because newly empowered House Democrats telegraphed their intention months ago to essentially harass the Trump administration with pointless investigations, this one seems to fit that description.
The U.S. effort to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear know-how dates back to the last days of the Bush administration.
As The Wall Street Journal noted in a critical op-ed by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), while oil prices spiked to more than $130 a barrel, then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice “was in Saudi Arabia signing away an even more valuable gift: nuclear technology. In a ceremony little-noticed in this country, Ms. Rice volunteered the U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear reactors, training nuclear engineers, and constructing nuclear infrastructure.”
Wise International reported in April 2017, three months after POTUS Trump was inaugurated, that the Saudis were moving forward with the construction of two nuclear reactors.
“We are carrying out feasibility studies, technically and economically to build those nuclear reactors … in addition to detailed technical studies for the selection of the best locations,” said King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy president Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani said the previous September.
Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council announced the commissioning of a study on the development of nuclear power in 2006. In 2011, plans were announced for the construction of 16 power reactors, and WorleyParsons was commissioned to identify potential sites.
A South Korean entity, Korea Atomic Research Institute, and a subsidiary of South Korea’s KEPCO, won contracts in 2015 and 2016 to carry out feasibility and planning studies. And July 2017, the Cabinet approved the establishment of a National Project for Atomic Energy, Wise International noted.
But the U.S. is not the only great power involved in helping to develop Saudi nuclear energy. OilPrice.com reported in November that Russia had “pulled ahead” of other countries in the “Middle East nuclear race” after the Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom may have taken the lead in building Saudi nuclear plants.
The Saudis plan to order their first two reactors this year with the objective of building “an additional 19 power plants until 2030,” OilPrice.com.
It should also be noted that in order for the U.S. to transfer any nuclear technology to the Saudis or sell them any nuclear technology or equipment, Congress would have to approve it — all of which gives this new investigation by Cummings’ committee the feel of a Democrat-inspired witch hunt rather than a serious probe.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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