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Trump offered $850 million to terrorism victims to save Sudan-Israel deal 

The Trump administration offered up to $850 million to American victims of terrorist attacks as part of efforts to save a deal with Sudan to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.

The offer, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations, included $700 million for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and up to $150 million for hundreds of naturalized U.S. citizens who are victims of the 1998 twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

But those offers fell apart Monday afternoon, one source said, amid fraught negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill that were ongoing since Friday.

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“We’re flatlined. We’re on life support,” the source said.

The $850 offer by the Trump administration to compensate American victims of terrorism is part of efforts by the White House to reach an agreement with Congress to pass legislation restoring Sudan’s sovereign immunity, so-called legal peace, as part of its removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism (SST).

ABC News first reported on Friday the Trump administrations offer of $700 million for 9/11 victims pursuing claims against Sudan.

It’s unclear where the Trump administration would get the $850 million, but it is believed to likely come from the American taxpayer. 

The Trump administration rescinded Sudan’s SST designation on Monday, a move welcomed by bipartisan members of Congress and a recognition of the country’s revolutionary democratic transition following the grassroots overthrow of the 30-year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

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But passage of “legal peace” has deadlocked in Congress over concerns that victims and the families of victims of terrorism might not be able to pursue claims against Sudan. This includes the 1998 twin bombings on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, carried out by al Qaeda, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The White House, which has been focused on opening relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim nations, declined to comment.

President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE announced in October that Sudan would establish diplomatic ties with Israel, following the breakthrough in relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The president has celebrated these diplomatic breakthroughs, known as the Abraham Accords, as one of his most important foreign policy achievements, and the White House is reportedly preparing a signing ceremony with Sudan ahead of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris to travel to Northern Triangle region in June Biden expected to formally recognize Armenian Genocide: report MORE’s inauguration.

Sudanese officials have signaled they are prepared to back away from warming ties with the Jewish state if the Trump administration fails to secure legislation protecting Khartoum from terrorism-related lawsuits.

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A source close to the negotiations said withholding ties with Israel is the only guarantee Sudan has in making sure the legislation is passed before the Biden administration takes office.

There is robust bipartisan support in Congress for backing Sudan’s transitional democratic government. But more than a year of negotiations between the White House, State Department and Capitol Hill has failed to achieve an agreement satisfying concerns of terrorism victims and Sudan.

Critics fault the administration for leaving Congress out of early conversations with Khartoum on settling claims of terrorist victims that were part of benchmarks for removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. 

Sudan has put $335 million in an escrow account that is meant to compensate American victims of the 1998 twin embassy bombings. Yet the money will be released to victims only with passage of the legal peace legislation. If legislation does not pass by November 2021, the money will be released back to Sudan.

Negotiations are growing more fraught as the Trump administration aims to pass the legal peace legislation before the president’s term ends.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit Hillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech MORE (D-N.Y.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 Bottom line The Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges MORE (D-N.J.) say they have proposed at least two legislative options.

“Key House and Senate Democrats support both versions of the Menendez-Schumer bill, and we are prepared to pass either one before the end of the year,” Schumer and Menendez said in a statement last week.

“We strongly support a successful transition to democracy in Sudan; making this deal work for victims of terrorism should not be in conflict with that goal. As negotiations with the Trump administration continue, we call on Senate Republicans and the State Department to step up to the plate and work with us to make it a reality,” they added.