A Democratic U.S. senator and his Republican counterpart on Friday asked Congress’ investigative arm to probe Trump administration talks with Saudi Arabia over sharing nuclear power technology.
In the latest effort by lawmakers to shed light on the potential deal, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio asked the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, to investigate the talks as soon as possible. They also asked the GAO to review executive branch negotiations with Saudi Arabia on nuclear energy since 2009, when Democrat Barack Obama was president.
Rubio and Menendez, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, want to ensure any agreement “includes rigorous nonproliferation safeguards and other conditions to prevent nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia from undermining or threatening regional or international security,” said their letter to the GAO, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to build at least two nuclear power plants, has been in talks with the United States for years on importing technology.
The OPEC member, which is also in talks with countries including Russia, China and France, has at times resisted U.S. standards on sharing nuclear technology that prevent uranium enrichment and spent fuel repossessing.
Both of those techniques are potential paths to clandestinely making fissile material for nuclear weapons.
Nonproliferation experts worry that if Saudi Arabia is not held to such a “gold standard,” in what is known as a 123 agreement, it could risk a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates, which recently built reactors, could renegotiate its nonproliferation agreements if Saudi Arabia is allowed to bypass the standards.
Concerns in Congress rose last year after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS News his kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if archrival Iran did. The killing of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year has also sparked backlash against any deal.
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has had quiet talks with Saudi officials, including his friend, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, on nuclear power.
The Department of Energy and the National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The senators said the negotiations are occurring in a “very opaque manner” and that the Trump administration is not keeping their committee informed.
Perry has said he told Saudi Arabia it is important for the kingdom to be seen around the world as strong on nonproliferation. He also said that part of the talks center on making sure any nuclear inspections would not be intrusive for sensitive areas in the kingdom.
Perry told the Financial Times this week that talks with Saudi Arabia were at a pace “closer to one mile an hour than to Mach 1.2.”
Last month, Democratic House members alleged in a report that top White House aides ignored warnings they could be breaking the law as they worked with former U.S. officials in a group called IP3 International to advance a multibillion-dollar plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Ex-Tea Party lawmaker perfectly nails why Trump is going down in 2020
On Saturday, former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) tweeted the simple reason he believes President Donald Trump will lose his bid for re-election in 2020:
Trump will lose in 2020 because the vast majority of America is tired of him. Tired of his bullshit. Tired of his drama. Just plain tired of him.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) August 17, 2019
Illinois woman out of a job after calling for a return to slavery in this incredibly racist video
According to a report from the Riverfront Times, an Illinois woman seen in a video using ugly racial slurs and calling for a return to slavery is now out of a job over her comments.
The reports states that the two women seen in the video, identified as Macy Castleman and Jayde Landers, claim it was recorded it three years ago but it just came to light again after Gabbi Goldsborough posted it to Facebook with the warning: "I love how people sit around & act like racism isn’t still a thing. macy castleman and jayde landers u have a lot of explaining to do."
Epstein hired multiple lawyers to meet with him to avoid being kept in cell before his death: report
On Saturday, The New York Times published an account of the final days of high-powered wealth manager Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead of apparent suicide in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center while facing trial for child sex trafficking.
One of the key new revelations from the report is that Epstein despised his cell, which was "cramped, dank and infested with vermin" — so he used his vast wealth to exploit a legal loophole in the prison system that would let him spend most of his time outside of it: hire a bunch of lawyers to come and talk to him for hours and hours so he could get a private room to himself.