May 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top Senate Democrat says State Dept. is working on new Saudi arms deal

In this image, Pompeo stands in front of a flag and map

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs reporters on May 20. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/pool/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote in a CNN op-ed on Wednesday that he learned that the State Department is currently working to sell thousands of additional precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Why it matters: Democrats say that Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general who was ousted on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recommendation, was investigating the administration's previous effort to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.

  • Menendez and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) announced an investigation into Linick last week.

The big picture: The Senate voted to block the Trump administration's sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia in June 2019, in a bipartisan rebuke of the administration's close relationship to the kingdom and the use of weapons against civilians in Yemen.

What's new: Menendez claims he received draft documentation from the State Department on the sale prior to the Senate recess in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What they're saying: "The administration has refused to answer our fundamental questions to justify this new sale and articulate how it would be consistent with US values and national security objectives," Menendez wrote.

  • "As a matter of policy, we do not comment upon or confirm proposed defense sales until they have been formally notified to Congress," a State Department spokesperson told Axios.

Go deeper: Pompeo bristles at questions over inspector general's firing

Go deeper