Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi aid, as new Saudi...

Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi aid, as new Saudi relationships to Trump swirl

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., U.S. Central Command commander, greets Saudi Arabia National Guard service members after meeting with King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, April 15, 2019 (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Franklin Moore)

WASHINGTON — The Senate failed to override President Trump’s veto of legislation restricting U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia.

The Senate passed three resolutions in June, followed by the House, after the Trump administration said it would circumvent Congress and sell arms to Saudi Arabia. The resolutions blocked the sale and also underscored bipartisan unease with the Saudi-led war in Yemen and fury at the Saudi government’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But the bipartisan vote that approved those resolutions was not enough for the two-thirds required to overcome a presidential veto, with 45 senators voting Monday in favor of the override.

In May, the Senate failed to overcome Trump’s veto of another resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from supporting the Saudi-led military activities in Yemen’s civil war.

The Senate vote came as a House committee released a report that said efforts to sell Saudi Arabia top-level, restricted nuclear technology were led by Trump’s longtime fundraiser Thomas Barrack.

The report said Barrack used his friendship with Trump to leverage efforts with Trump administration officials to win support for the Saudi nuclear deal. Barrack did that simultaneously as he sought funding from the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates to boost his effort to buy Westinghouse Electric Company, the only U.S. manufacturer of large-scale nuclear reactors, according to the report. Barrack’s bid to purchase Westinghouse failed.

The White House approved the transfer of sensitive commercial nuclear data to Riyadh in December 2017, insisting it would open the door for Saudi Arabia to build nuclear reactors. That transfer was first reported by Reuters.

The report was released by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In February, the committee released a preliminary report that said, among other things, that Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, and others pushed for the nuclear transfer over the objections of career employees who expressed fear it could lead to nuclear proliferation.

Monday’s report also said Barrack was lobbying the Trump administration to appoint him to a top diplomatic position to be a principal in crafting U.S. Middle East policy.

“The Trump Administration has virtually obliterated the lines normally separating government policymaking from corporate and foreign interests,” the report said. “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.”

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