Just two weeks after the President fired a government watchdog who was investigating arms sales to Saudi Arabia, he’s looking at … more arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
That’s the news this week from The Daily Beast, which reported the Trump administration was preparing another sale of precision-guided munitions to the kingdom as it fights an endless and bloody war that has devastated Yemeni civilians.
The canned watchdog, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, had submitted written questions for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of an investigation of the last deal — Pompeo infuriated Congress last year by using emergency powers to green light the $8 billion deal without their review.
The “emergency” that warranted bypassing congressional review, the administration said at the time, was “Iranian malign activity.” But then and now, that stretched credulity. That emergency sale earned bipartisan votes of disapproval in both chambers — though it wasn’t enough to overturn Trump’s veto.
Now, with Linick gone, Pompeo may try to pull the same move. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote Wednesday that the administration was pursing another “undisclosed sale.”
“The administration has refused to answer our fundamental questions to justify this new sale and articulate how it would be consistent with U.S. values and national security objectives,” Menendez wrote, adding: “The secretary of state needs to answer our questions. What is their reasoning to continue selling weapons to the Saudis? Why should Congress allow Trump to continue currying personal favor with a capricious Saudi despot who thinks he can butcher his critics without consequences?”
Ironically, Menendez noted, “this is why inspectors general exist.”
Pompeo explained Linick’s firing as a little more than a difference in company culture: “I went to the President and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to,” the secretary said of Linick’s firing last week.
Trump offered a similar story that Monday, May 18, just with slightly less sheen:
“They asked me to terminate him,” Trump said. “I have the absolute right, as President, to terminate. I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ and they said ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look, I’ll terminate him.’ I don’t know what’s going on other than that. You’d have to ask Mike Pompeo.”
Trump’s purported indifference to the inspector general probing Saudi weapons sales is odd, given the President’s fondness for bragging about inflated sales figures to the kingdom. And doubly so given that, according to the Daily Beast, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is keen on another sale.
Here’s what else we were watching this week: