President Donald Trump’s explanation for why he’s “standing with Saudi Arabia” despite the conclusion of U.S. intelligence officials that the kingdom’s leader ordered the murder of a U.S.-based journalist, is a “pants on fire” lie, according to Politifact.
“With all that being said though, we have $450 billion, $110 billion of which is a military order, but this is equipment and various things ordered from Saudi Arabia, $450 billion,” Trump said on Oct. 20. “I think it’s over a million jobs. That’s not helpful for us to cancel an order like that. That hurts us far more than it hurts them.”
Trump on Tuesday issued a statement casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in Khashoggi’s death. He again repeated the $450 billion number as part of his economic argument for not punishing Saudi Arabia:
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!
As the AP notes, the deal was partly negotiated under the Obama administration and “mixes old deals, some new business and prospective purchases that have not been worked out.”
“Many of those were deals negotiated under the Obama administration, and only a small fraction have been filled,” said defense analyst Rachel Stohl at the Stimson Center, a private defense policy think tank.
“President Obama offered Saudi Arabia something like $115 billion in arms while in office, and just about half of that resulted in sales,” Jennifer Spindel, an international security professor at the University of Oklahoma, told Politifact.
The Pentagon said last month that Saudi Arabia had signed “letters of offer and acceptance” for only $14.5 billion in military purchases, $13.5 billion of which was to purchase a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
The State Department estimated last year that if the full $110 billion in prospective business is fulfilled, it could end up “potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States.”
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency oversees foreign military sales. Not counting the THAAD contract, its summary of sales to Saudi Arabia under Trump totals a little over $2 billion.
Here’s their final ruling on Trump’s claim:
Trump said that Saudi Arabia has ordered $450 billion from U.S. companies, including $110 billion in military contracts, representing over a million jobs.
Orders on that scale don’t exist. There is no data behind the $450 billion, and the $110 billion is a blend of smaller deals in progress, old offers that have not come through, and speculative discussions that have yet to move forward.
Trump’s claims about jobs ignores the long runway between signed agreements and actual delivery and payment. He treats spending that could play out over a decade as if it were spent in one year. More importantly, if the $450 billion in orders is a mirage, the 1 million jobs is equally without substance.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire.