Dem presses State official: Does Trump know about Qatari jet sale?

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One of President Trump’s most vocal critics in the House questioned Thursday whether the president was aware of a deal to sell Qatar up to 36 F-15 fighter jets.

“I don’t mean to be facetious about this, but does the president know that?” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) asked Tina Kaidanow, acting assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing.

“I believe so,” Kaidanow responded.

On Wednesday, Qatar and the Pentagon announced the completion of the $12 billion deal to sell the country the Boeing-made jets. The deal has been in the works going back to the Obama administration.

The finalization of the deal comes after several Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, moved to isolate Qatar this month, cutting off diplomatic ties and closing all land, sea and air borders.


Trump last week took credit for the blockade, saying his visit to the region and call for Muslim countries to unite against terrorism and Iran was the reason for the decision.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, has tried to play mediator, calling for tensions to cool and the blockade to be eased.

Shortly after Tillerson made that statement last Friday, Trump bashed Qatar as “a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level.”

Lieu asked Kaidanow during Thursday’s hearing to square Trump’s statements on Qatar with the jet sale to the country.

Kaidanow said the United States needs to both push Qatar do better at fighting extremism and help it defend itself from threats such as Iran.

“It’s not simply a question of the things we concern ourselves with, with regard to extremism and so forth,” she said. “Qatar needs to do some more things, the president, the secretary have made that clear, and we’ve made that clear to the Qataris.”

“By the same token, the Qataris and the Gulf countries as a whole face certain threats from Iran, from other sources but primarily from Iran, that they need to address through means that we can assist them with. These fighter sales are designed to address those kinds of threats. So I think you can easily understand why we have to do multiple things at the same time.”

Lieu countered that Trump is sending mixed message to world leaders. 

“My only point is that it is very confusing to world leaders [and] to members of Congress when the Trump administration does two exactly opposite things,” he said. “And that’s my hope that as the administration grows and learns that the administration stops doing that.”

Separately, Defense Secretary James Mattis expressed confidence that the Qatar crisis will be resolved.

“We’ll sort it out,” he told reporters after a hearing Thursday. “We’ll help them.”

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