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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

Exclusive: GOP Leader McCarthy asks to meet with Biden about the border

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at CPAC. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the rising numbers of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, in a letter sent on Friday.

Why it matters: Biden is facing criticism from the right and the left as agency actions and media reports reveal spiking numbers of migrant children overwhelming parts of the U.S. immigration system. Recent data shows an average of 321 kids being referred to migrant shelters each day, as Axios reported.

Vaccine hesitancy drops, but with partisan divide

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

69% of the public intends to get a COVID vaccine or already has, up significantly from 60% in November, according to a report out Friday from the Pew Research Center.

Yes, but: The issue has become even more partisan, with 56% of Republicans who say they want or have already received a coronavirus vaccine compared to 83% of Democrats.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

China's 5-year plan is hazy on climate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.