The Trump administration will push through a new weapons sale to Saudi Arabia and bypass congressional objections by declaring the transaction an “emergency,” according to lawmakers who were notified of the plan Friday.
The move prompted fierce criticism from Democratic senators, while the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch of Idaho, was cautious in his reaction. Risch, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, said he was “reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the move, if left unchecked, would set a “dangerous precedent,” and he feared any weapons sold to the Saudis and the UAE would end up killing civilians in the Yemen war, where the two Middle Eastern countries have waged a devastating bombing campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” Murphy said.
“There is no new ‘emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen, and doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there.”
It was not immediately clear how much the sale is worth. But lawmakers were told the sale involved precision-guided missiles, bombs, ammunition and aircraft maintenance support, according to Senate staffer who was not authorized to speak about the matter on the record.
US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia have become particularly controversial since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident who was killed last fall by a team of Saudi operatives.
The State Department declined to comment.