The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to circumvent Congress to allow the export to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of billions of dollars worth of munitions that are now on hold, according to current and former American officials and legislators familiar with the plan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some political appointees in the State Department are pushing for the administration to invoke an emergency provision that would allow President Trump to prevent Congress from halting the sales, worth about $7 billion. The transactions, which include precision-guided munitions and combat aircraft, would infuriate lawmakers in both parties.
They would also further inflame tensions between the United States and Iran, which views Saudi Arabia as its main rival and has been supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen in their campaign against a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates.
American legislators from both parties remain incensed by the Trump administration’s equivocal response to the grisly killing last October by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident. They are also frustrated by the administration’s role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, a four-year conflict that the United Nations has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands of civilians killed and millions suffering from famine.
This spring, both the House and Senate approved bipartisan legislation to cut off military assistance to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen using the 1973 War Powers Act, only to see it vetoed in April.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that circumventing Congress on a Middle East arms sale would be “a big mistake,” though he added that he would need to see the specifics of such a deal.
“We have a gold standard for that sort of arrangement, and to violate it for Saudi Arabia is going to open the door for it to happen in multiple other places,” he said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and an outspoken ally of the president, told reporters Thursday that he would “not do business as usual with the Saudis until we have a better reckoning” with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, whom American intelligence agencies consider to be responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and the Saudi role in the Yemen war.
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