House Dem chairman announces hearing after Trump rejects UN arms treaty

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced Friday that the panel will hold a hearing to examine President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE's decision to pull the U.S. from an international treaty designed to regulate the global arms trade.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog House chairman slams Pompeo for suggesting US could 'disconnect' from Australia over China deal MORE (D-N.Y.) characterized Trump's decision to abandon the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which the president announced earlier in the day during a speech delivered at the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Indianapolis, as "a politically-motivated appeasement" of the powerful gun lobbyist group that will haunt the United States diplomatically. 

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"President Trump finds it more important to feed his right-wing base than to exercise U.S. leadership on the world stage," Engel said in a statement.

Addressing roughly 15,000 gun-rights supporters at the NRA gathering, Trump said the U.N. treaty encroached on U.S. autonomy and threatened individual gun rights provided by the Constitution.

“Under my administration, we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone,” Trump said. “We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedoms.”

Adopted by the U.N. in 2013, the Arms Trade Treaty aims to apply international standards to the sale of conventional weapons by encouraging assessments of how those arms would ultimately be used. It arose from humanitarian concerns that conventional weapons flowing across international boundaries were helping to exacerbate violence, particularly the targeting of civilians, in conflict zones across the globe. 

The U.N. General Assembly approved the measure by a lopsided vote of 154-3, with the United States supporting it. The pact is nonbonding, but then-Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe continuous whipsawing of climate change policy Budowsky: United Democrats and Biden's New Deal Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE said it would "help reduce the risk" that internationally traded weapons "will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes."

The Obama administration submitted the treaty to the Senate, where it hit a wall of opposition from Republicans and a handful of moderate Democrats and was never ratified. 

The NRA has long opposed the treaty, arguing, among other things, that it excludes explicit reference to the fundamental right to bear and sell arms.  

The Trump administration provided another rationale for its opposition on Friday. It noted that, while the United States is the world's largest exporter of arms, the two countries falling just behind it — Russia and China — were not among the 154 supporters of the treaty. Both nations abstained from voting. 

“The U.S. already has significant controls in place to regulate our arms transfers," a senior administration official said. "Other countries do not.” 

Engel rejected those arguments, warning that by pulling the United States from the pact, the administration will make the world a more dangerous place.

“It is abhorrent to use international diplomacy for blatant political pandering. It’s even more appalling when that policy decision concerns dangerous weapons that endanger the lives of Americans and people around the world," Engel said. 

“The Foreign Affairs Committee will convene a hearing to shine a bright light on this shameful decision.”

—Jordan Fabian contributed.