Jul 29, 2019

Report: Trump associate leveraged White House ties to push Saudi nuclear plan

Tom Barrack. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

A report from the House Oversight Committee released Monday found that Trump associate Tom Barrack sought powerful positions in the administration at the same time he was promoting U.S. corporate and foreign interests that would benefit from the transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

What we know: Barrack is a successful businessman who oversaw Trump's inaugural committee and has significant real estate dealings in the Gulf region, including with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The report states that "private parties with close ties to the President wield[ed] outsized influence over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia," naming Barrack as "one of the key individuals leveraging his close ties to President Trump and the Administration to promote his own interests."

"These new documents raise serious questions about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the President’s friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons."
— House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings

Why it matters: The Trump administration's approval of nuclear technology transfers to Saudi Arabia, which Barrack promoted, has prompted backlash as part of broader congressional scrutiny over the White House's close ties to the kingdom and its royal family — especially in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • Separately, the New York Times reported Monday that federal prosecutors are looking at foreign influence over President Trump's 2016 campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration — with Barrack's connections to the Gulf region appearing to be of particular interest to investigators.
  • In a statement to ABC News, Barrack's spokesman said that he has been cooperating with the House Oversight Committee: "Mr. Barrack’s consistent attempts to bridge the divide of tolerance and understanding between these two great cultures is etched in the annals of time. This is not political it is essential. Mr. Barrack has never had a position in the Trump administration."

Go deeper: Trump approved Saudi nuclear transfers after Khashoggi murder

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Feds probe Gulf contacts of Trump ally

Thomas Barrack, executive chairman and CEO of Colony Capital, played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors are looking at foreign influence over President Trump's 2016 campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration, the N.Y. Times reports under a quintuple byline (subscription):

  • "The relationship between Mr. Barrack, Mr. Manafort and representatives of the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, including Mr. al-Malik, has been of interest to federal authorities for at least nine months. The effort to influence Mr. Trump’s energy speech in 2016 was largely unsuccessful."
Go deeperArrowJul 29, 2019

Khashoggi killing: Judge orders federal agencies release records

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi at an event in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018. Photo: Omar Shagaleh/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A judge in New York ordered federal agencies Tuesday to urgently release thousands of pages of documents related to the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, AP reports.

Why it matters: President Trump and members of his administration including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have publicly stood by the Saudis after Khashoggi's death last year, despite the CIA's assessment that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder.

Go deeperArrowAug 7, 2019

Senate fails to override Trump veto of ban on Saudi weapon sales

Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Senate on Monday failed to override President Trump's veto of three resolutions seeking to block U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, falling 22 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

Why it matters: The initial passage of the resolutions marked yet another bipartisan rebuke of the administration's close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has come under increased scrutiny in the months since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi government. Trump, in vetoing the resolutions, argued that they "would weaken America's global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners."

Go deeperArrowJul 29, 2019