House Dems Eye White House Role in Saudi Nuclear Plan

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration continued to share sensitive information about nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia despite numerous warnings from members of the National Security Council, the House Oversight Committee said in an interim report Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, right, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Royal Court in Riyadh on Jan. 14, 2019. (Andrew Cabellero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)

The committee announced the opening of an investigation Tuesday into whether “actions being pursued by the Trump administration are in the national security interests of the United States or rather, serve those who stand to gain financially” from a possible change in U.S.-Saudi relations.

According to the 24-page interim report, multiple whistleblowers came forward to reveal efforts to rush a transfer of sensitive data to Saudi Arabia. If true, the allegations would mean the White House likely violated terms of the Atomic Energy Act which bars such decisions without input from Congress.

The sharing of information “may be ongoing to this day,” according to the report.

The whistleblowers reportedly waited to bring the information forward until Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Several whistleblowers also told committee members they were concerned about the “political reprisal, retribution or professional setbacks” they could face over their disclosures, the report states. 

Specifically, whistleblowers provided information to lawmakers about IP3 International, a private company owned by multiple retired generals and national security experts. IP3 – which stands for International Peace, Power and Prosperity – aimed to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia.

IP3 members include retired Generals Jack Keane, Keith Alexander and James Cartwright as well as Dennis Ross, former envoy to the Middle East, and former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, Fran Townsend. The report also names Bud McFarlane, a former national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan, as a member of the group.

Disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was also implicated in the report. Flynn served as an adviser to an IP3 International subsidiary, IronBridge Group Inc., from June 2016 to December 2016 – the same time he served on President Donald Trump’s campaign and transition team.

“General Flynn failed to report in his security clearance renewal application a trip he took to Saudi Arabia in June 2015 on behalf of IP3 and its predecessor company. Although he reported a separate trip to Saudi Arabia in October 2015, General Flynn omitted key details, including the identity of the ‘work sponsor’ that financed the trip,” Tuesday’s report said.

Flynn said he spoke at a conference during the trip but none of the bureaus involved in arranging speeches had any knowledge of the trip or of any conference there at the time.

President Trump’s longtime friend and inaugural committee chairman Thomas Barrack is also named in the House Oversight Committee’s report.

Citing a report by the New York Times, the committee identified Barrack as a “trusted gatekeeper” able to open talks with the Saudis and Emiratis. Barrack also reportedly served as a conduit between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

The push to share information with the Saudis continued into January 2017, the whistleblowers claimed, when Derek Harvey, senior director for Middle East and North African Affairs on the National Security Council, began telling those inside the new administration that it would adopt IP3’s plan to develop dozens of nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia thanks to deals that had “already been made by General Flynn during the transition – while he was serving as advisor to IP3,” the report states.

“Both career and political staff inside the White House reportedly agreed that Mr. Harvey’s directive could violate the law,” it continues. “One senior political official stated that the proposal was ‘not a business plan’ but rather ‘a scheme for those generals to make money.’ That official stated: ‘Okay, you know we cannot do this.’”

Ethics officials and legal advisers sitting on the National Security Council also reportedly aired their grievances about potential conflicts of interest. At one point the council’s own legal adviser, John Eisenberg, told staff to stop working on the plan altogether, according to the report.  

But the work allegedly continued. More than five people separately confirmed with the committee that Harvey continued to work on the project and spoke to Flynn “every night,” the report states.

By March 2017, weeks after Trump fired Flynn, whistleblowers alleged K.T. McFarland, former deputy national security adviser, expressed knowledge of a meeting with the president and Barrack. During the meeting, whistleblowers said, Trump instructed Barack to move full steam ahead with the IP3 project.

Not long after, Harvey held a conference call with Barrack and Rick Gates, then Trump’s deputy campaign manager. During the call, a longtime member of the National Security Council hopped on.

“[Mr. Harvey] was trying to promote the IP3 plan… so that Jared Kushner can present it to the president for approval,” the whistleblower claimed.

Opening the investigation now is crucial, the Democratic-led committee said Tuesday.

“On Feb. 12, 2019, the president met with nuclear power developers at the White House about sharing nuclear technology with countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia,” the report stated, noting that participants included IP3 members such as Keane and retired Rear Admiral Michael Hewitt.

Representatives from Westinghouse, General Electric and other energy outfits were also present.

Time is also of the essence, the committee said, as Kushner is currently scheduled to take a tour of the Middle East beginning early next week. Among several stops in the region, Kushner will visit the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where he is expected to discuss the economic portion of the administration’s Middle East peace plan.

The White House did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

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