1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

White House pushed Saudi nuclear plan: report

February 20, 2019

Senior White House officials backed a project to share nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, a congressional report has found. The plan is still under consideration by the Trump administration.

Mohammed bin Salman shaking hands with Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Vucci

The US Congress has opened an investigation into a proposal from the Trump administration to build dozens of nuclear reactors across Saudi Arabia.

Senior officials in the White House, including disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, pushed the nuclear effort despite the objections of ethics and national security officials, according to a 24-page congressional report citing whistleblowers within the Trump administration.

Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced the probe on Tuesday.

Lawmakers from both parties have expressed concerns that, without safeguards, the US technology transferred to Saudi Arabia could help the kingdom develop nuclear weapons.

Conflict of interest

The report raised concerns about whether some White House officials sought to circumvent national security procedures to push the nuclear effort that could financially benefit supporters of US President Donald Trump.

Citing whistleblower accounts, email communications and other documents, the report details how national security and ethics officials warned that Flynn's actions could violate statutes governing the transfer of nuclear technology to foreign powers as well as federal conflicts of interest law. Whistleblowers said they witnessed "abnormal acts" in the White house regarding the proposal. 

Despite Flynn's firing in early 2017, the proposal has remained under consideration by the Trump administration. Flynn is awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI during an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump close with Saudi Arabia?

Trump has made Saudi Arabia a core part of his foreign policy strategy in the Middle East. In 2017, the Middle Eastern kingdom agreed to a $110-billion (€97-billion) arms deal with the US, an agreement opposed by several members of Trump's own Republican party. 

Trump also defended relations with Saudi Arabia after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey late last year, an act which many in Congress insist was orchestrated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The president has also brushed off criticism of Riyadh's role in the war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia's war ravaged southern neighbor. In December, the US Senate passed a resolution ending military support in Yemen, a strong rebuke to Trump's Middle East ambitions.

dv/cmk (AP, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.