Kaine: Trump admin approved sending nuclear tech to Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi killing

The Trump administration approved sending unclassified nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia twice after the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Democratic senator said Tuesday.

One of the approvals came on Oct. 18, 2018, 16 days after Khashoggi was killed, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineFears grow of chaotic election Trump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink MORE (D-Va.) said in a statement after seeing the approvals. The second came Feb. 18, he said.

“It has taken the Trump administration more than two months to answer a simple question — when did you approve transfers of nuclear expertise from American companies to Saudi Arabia? And the answer is shocking,” said Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee.


“The alarming realization that the Trump administration signed off on sharing our nuclear know-how with the Saudi regime after it brutally murdered an American resident adds to a disturbing pattern of behavior that includes citing a bogus emergency to bypass a congressional block on arms sales to the Saudis, continuing support for the disastrous war in Yemen over congressional objections, turning a blind eye to the regime’s detention of women’s rights activists, and refusing to comply with the Global Magnitsky Act to reach a determination about the Saudi government’s responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” he added.

At issue is what’s known as Part 810 authorizations, which allow U.S. companies to share certain unclassified nuclear energy technology and services with other countries.

The Trump administration’s approval of seven Part 810 authorizations for Saudi Arabia was first reported in late March. Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryPresident Trump faces Herculean task in first debate Energy secretary questions consensus that humans cause climate change OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium MORE later confirmed to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he approved the authorizations.

An Energy Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond a request for comment Tuesday on Kaine’s statement.

Perry previously defended the authorizations as “something that goes on every day,” with the Energy Department stressing in a March statement that a Part 810 authorization “does not authorize the transfer of nuclear material, equipment or components.”

Lawmakers, particularly Democrats, were furious the administration approved the authorizations, accusing it of circumventing Congress while it negotiates a broader nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia.

That agreement, known as a 123 agreement, has elicited bipartisan opposition because Riyadh is resisting a deal that prohibits enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel to produce plutonium, which are essential steps in producing nuclear weapons.

Some lawmakers also zeroed on opposing a potential 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia as part of their fury after Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October.

Congress has statutory authority to review and potentially block 123 agreements.

Last month, the Trump administration also invoked emergency powers in order to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates without a 30-day congressional review period. Lawmakers had warned the administration did not have the votes to get the sales to the Saudis through Congress after Khashoggi’s death.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge's order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE’s eagerness to give the Saudis anything they want, over bipartisan congressional objection, harms American national security interests,” Kaine said, “and is one of many steps the administration is taking that is fueling a dangerous escalation of tension in the region.”