By Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.
Report Accuses Trump Allies of Conspiring to Profit Off Saudi Nuclear Deal
By Alison DurkeeJuly 30, 2019Tom Barrack was among the members of the president’s inner circle who tried to use their influence to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, according to House Democrats.
The Trump administration’s coziness with Saudi Arabia—and willingness to kowtow to corporate interests—were thrown into sharper relief Monday, as a new House Oversight Committee report revealed the extent to which a private company and the Trump allies associated with it were able to use the administration to further their own financial interests in Riyadh. The new House report centers on how IP3, a private company described by one nuclear industry exec as “the Theranos of the nuclear industry,” has been attempting to circumvent the obstacles stopping them from transferring U.S. nuclear technology to the Saudis—with the Trump team’s help. “With regard to Saudi Arabia, the Trump Administration has virtually obliterated the lines normally separating government policymaking from corporate and foreign interests,” the House report alleges. “The documents show the Administration’s willingness to let private parties with close ties to the President wield outsized influence over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia.”The report, which is the second to be released on this topic and was based on a review of 60,000 documents, details how IP3 lobbied the Trump administration to relax their standards for any future nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia. Typically, such an agreement would require the other country to agree to a “Gold Standard” that prevents the risk of nuclear proliferation, which the Saudis have already refused to comply with. IP3, which is assembled of companies wanting to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, is unhappy with this “total roadblock” to their plans to strike it rich in the Persian Gulf—and they have been making their case to the upper echelons of the Trump team. According to the report, IP3 officials were granted such “unprecedented access” to Trumpworld that they considered the administration an “extended team member,” and officials met directly with “President [Donald] Trump, Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, K.T. McFarland, and Cabinet Secretaries Rick Perry, Steven Mnuchin, Mike Pompeo, Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Wilbur Ross.” This access, the report explains, “yielded promises from high-level government officials to support IP3’s efforts with Saudi officials.”One particular figure who stands out in the House report is longtime Trump ally and former Trump inauguration chair Thomas Barrack, whom the report alleges was attempting to seek a position in the administration at the same time as he was “(1) promoting the interests of U.S. corporations seeking to profit from the transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia; (2) advocating on behalf of foreign interests seeking to obtain this U.S. nuclear technology; and (3) taking steps for his own company, Colony NorthStar, to profit from the same proposals he was advancing with the Administration.” (The New York Times reported separately Monday that federal prosecutors are looking into Barrack’s foreign entanglements in the Gulf region and their connection to the Trump campaign.) Also implicated in the report is former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who served as an adviser to IP3. In 2016, the report alleges, Flynn told business partners about upcoming interactions with key officials in Russia and the Persian Gulf—including Vladimir Putin—and “offered to use these contacts to further IP3’s business interests.”In addition to lobbying the Trump team, IP3 and Barrack’s efforts also directly involved Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. IP3 officials traveled to Saudi Arabia in December 2016 to ask then-deputy crown prince MBS to invest in the company, using IP3’s Trump connections and the incoming administration’s support of IP3 as the primary argument to solicit funds. Trump and Kushner then met directly with MBS in March 2017, and IP3 officials said afterwards that the meeting “established the framework for our unique opportunity to take the next steps with IP3 and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Barrack used his Saudi connections to directly influence Trump even before the president’s 2016 victory, as Barrack sent a draft of Trump’s May 2016 energy speech to Saudi and Emerati officials to “coordinate pro-Gulf language.” (The speech’s theme, ironically, was “America First.”)“Today’s report reveals new and extensive evidence that corroborates Committee whistleblowers and exposes how corporate and foreign interests are using their unique access to advocate for the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” House Oversight Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know the facts about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the President’s personal friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.” Republicans issued a response countering the Democrat-led House report, which claims that “the evidence currently before the Committee does not show impropriety in the proposed transfer of nuclear energy technology to Saudi Arabia” and blames the House report on Democrats’ “[obsession] with investigating every decision made by the Trump White House.”In a statement to ABC News after the report’s release, a spokesman for Barrack said the businessman “has been cooperating with the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives and has provided the documents the Committee requested. Mr. Barrack’s engagement in investment and business development throughout the Middle East for the purpose of better aligned Middle East and US objectives are well known, as are his more than four decades of respected relationships throughout the region. 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.” Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell called the report a Democratic-led “smear campaign,” telling ABC News that the “special counsel investigated all of these matters, and General Flynn cooperated extensively—answering all their questions on all their Middle East issues and everything else.”Monday’s report marks the latest sign of the Trump administration’s enduring alliance with Saudi Arabia, which has come under heightened scrutiny in the wake of the assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Trump recently defied Congress by vetoing a bipartisan block on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, an override vote for which failed Monday in the Senate. Kushner, meanwhile, has continued to ally himself with MBS, whom he’s expected to meet with once again this week. And IP3’s efforts, the report alleges, “continue to this day.” The Daily Beast reported in March that progress on transferring U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia is continuing, as the U.S. Department of Energy approved six authorizations for U.S. companies to conduct nuclear-related work in the country—two of which were approved after Khashoggi’s murder. “The alarming realization that the Trump Administration signed off on sharing our nuclear know-how with the Saudi regime after it brutally murdered an American resident adds to a disturbing pattern of behavior,” Sen. Tim Kaine said in a statement about the authorizations. “President Trump’s eagerness to give the Saudis anything they want, over bipartisan Congressional objection, harms American national security interests.”