Several current and former Trump administration appointees promoted the sale of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia despite repeated objections from members of the National Security Council and other senior White House officials, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.
The officials who objected included White House lawyers and H.R. McMaster, then the chief of the National Security Council, according to the report, which cited documents obtained by the committee and accounts of unnamed whistleblowers. The officials called for a halt in the nuclear sales discussions in 2017, citing potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles.
But the effort to promote nuclear sales persisted, led by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, and more recently by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The possible nuclear power sale was discussed in the Oval Office as recently as last week.
Details about these internal White House battles are contained in a 24-page report released Tuesday morning by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.). It said the unnamed whistleblowers inside the White House came forward because they were distressed at the continued effort to sell the power plants.
Committee Republicans said Tuesday they were not included in the drafting of the detailed report and had not received a copy until Monday night. They said they had not had a chance to fully assess it.
“This is a delicate and nuanced issue that Chairman Cummings is approaching without bipartisan input and with far flung requests for information,” Charli Huddleston, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the committee, said in a statement.
The report includes a wide range of allegations and suggests the involvement of a long list of high-profile people in Trump’s orbit.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
The report’s release comes as Saudi-U.S. relations reach a particularly difficult moment. Following the death of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Congress has expressed reluctance to continue with a business-as-usual relationship with Riyadh.
The Trump White House has balked at endorsing intelligence reports suggesting that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing.
The Cummings report notes that one of the power plant manufacturers that could benefit from a nuclear deal, Westinghouse Electric, is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the company that provided financial relief to the family of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Brookfield Asset Management took a 99-year lease on the family’s deeply indebted New York City property at 666 Fifth Avenue.
“Multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the Atomic Energy Act and without review by Congress as required by law — efforts that may be ongoing to this day,” the report says.
The whistleblowers also “warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction and backbiting. They noted that White House political appointees repeatedly ignored directives from top ethics advisers who repeatedly — but unsuccessfully — “ordered senior White House officials to halt their efforts.”
The Oversight Committee report, which focuses on the first three months of the Trump presidency, may have special relevance this week as Kushner prepares for a trip to the Middle East.