Trump administration approved nuclear energy transfers to Saudis after Khashoggi killing

Trump administration approved nuclear energy transfers to Saudis after Khashoggi killing

By:  Tom DiChristopher


The Trump administration approved the transfer of nuclear energy information to Saudi Arabia on two occasions after the slaying of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the kingdom, according to Senate Democrats.

The administration granted the first approval in question Oct. 18, 2018, 16 days after the killing of The Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The second authorization was granted Feb. 18, 2019, three months after the CIA reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s death.

“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,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in a press release.

The information, first shared by Kaine in the press release, came from documents provided by the Department of Energy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, the committee’s chairman, sought information about seven so-called Part 810 authorizations granted to U.S. firms to share nuclear energy information with Saudi Arabia beginning on Dec. 13, 2017.

In particular, congressional Democrats and Republicans alike wanted to know whether the administration continued to grant Part 810 authorizations for information sharing with Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s slaying.

The Department of Energy, which approves Part 810 authorizations along with the State Department, did not immediately return a request for comment. A foreign relations aide for Risch could not immediately be reached to confirm the contents of the letter.

A spokesperson for Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed the dates disclosed by Kaine.

“This adds to my existing worries about the Administration’s willingness to give Saudi Arabia a free pass, especially after its brutal murder of Jamal Khashogghi,” Menendez said in an email to CNBC. “The fact that we now know two of these transactions took place after the murder makes clear that the Administration is willing to support the Saudis with impunity.”

The issue of U.S.-Saudi nuclear energy cooperation has become a flash point in the broader conflict between the White House and Capitol Hill over U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia. Members of Congress have questioned whether the kingdom should be trusted with U.S. nuclear energy technology in light of the CIA conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed played a part in Khashoggi’s murder, an assessment the Saudis deny...