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Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper refused to answer questions at a House Foreign Affairs hearing about Jared Kushner's involvement in the decision to sell Saudi Arabia weapons over the objections of Congress, before eventually conceding that Kushner is "one of the lines of communication" between the U.S. and Riyadh.

REP. KEATING: "What about the overall issue of providing arms to the Saudis? Was Jared Kushner involved in that? Don't define it so narrowly."
COOPER: "I'm not defining it narrowly. I'm talking about the emergency declaration, which was conditions-based. I can talk to you about the conditions."
REP. KEATING: No, no. I want you to answer my question. It's pretty simple. You were involved in all of this. Was Jared Kushner involved?
COOPER: Not in the emergency declaration.
REP. KEATING: No I'm not asking that. In discussions with the Saudis about arms sales.
COOPER: I see what you're asking. On bilateral communications ... there are number of lines of communications with our partners, including Saudi Arabia --
REP. KEATING: Was he involved?
COOPER: Not in the emergency declaration.
REP. KEATING: You're not answering my question. This is a man who is in charge of the Middle East peace process. He's got a direct line to the Saudi leadership, as well established. He has discussions all the time with Saudi rulers, himself sometimes in private. So tell me. Why can't you answer that question?
COOPER: Congressman Keating, there are multiple lines of communications with our partners in Riyadh, including here in Washington, as well as our embassy.
REP. KEATING: I didn't ask about the multiple lines. Is Jared Kushner?
COOPER: He would be one of the lines.

Context: Cooper is being grilled on the Trump administration’s decision to invoke an emergency provision allowing him to bypass Congress to sell nearly $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are waging a brutal war in Yemen. The administration has argued that signs of an increased threat from Iran justify the use of "emergency" powers.

  • A bipartisan group of senators, including Trump ally Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), has introduced 22 joint resolutions condemning the weapons sales. Trump will likely veto the measures if they land on his desk.

The big picture: The hearing is part of a broader trend of pushback by Congress against the administration's close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has come under closer scrutiny in the months following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Go deeper ... Exclusive: Jared Kushner on his relationship with the Saudi crown prince

Go deeper

New report hits DOJ over lack of police shooting data

Demonstrations followed the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in 2020. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

A new government accountability report says the Department of Justice failed to consistently publish an annual summary of police excessive force data from 2016 to 2020, as required by federal law.

Why it matters: The data is crucial for the DOJ to monitor excessive force cases, and used to investigate law enforcement agencies with patterns of abuse. The DOJ can pivot off it to pursue court action to force reforms.

13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House will vote Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.