President Donald Trump has asserted rarely used emergency powers to sidestep congressional objections, and give the green light to the controversial sale of weapons to Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a move that comes as tensions boil over with Iran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified lawmakers Friday that the president was claiming a national emergency existed because of a purported threat from Iran and was, as a result, giving permission for 22 arms deals valued at $8.1 billion.
In each of his letters notifying lawmakers of the decision, Pompeo stated that he had “determined that an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States and thus, waives the congressional review requirements” — without noting the nature of the emergency or offering details about it.
He added that the government had “taken into account political, military, economic, human rights, and arms control considerations.”
Pompeo’s notification letters, according to the Washington Post, “effectively give the Trump administration a green light to conclude the sale and transfer of bombs, missile systems, semiautomatic rifles, drones and repair and maintenance services to aid the Saudi air fleet, and precision-guided munitions that lawmakers fear Saudi Arabia may use against civilians in Yemen’s civil war.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that Trump had “failed once again to prioritize our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia.”
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James E. Risch (R-Idaho) said in a statement that he was “reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.