WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez blasted President Donald Trump on Friday after his administration said it would bypass congressional review for the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, accused in the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its former chairman, said he was working with lawmakers of both parties in order to respond to the announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which would allow the administration to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan over congressional objections.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” said Menendez, D-N.J., who so far has been able to block the sale of such as precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia.

"Rather than stand up against those who murdered Jamal Khashoggi and are working against U.S. interests, the Trump administration decided to do an end run around the Congress and possibly the law.”



BREAKING: The Trump Admin formally informed Congress that it is invoking an obscure provision of the Arms Export Control Act to eliminate the statutorily-required Congressional review of the sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others.

Pompeo said the action would allow 22 arms deals worth $8.1 billion to proceed. He cited the Iranian threat in invoking the Arms Export Control Act.

“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

“Delaying this shipment could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance that could create severe airworthiness and interoperability concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility.”

Trump has sided with Saudi Arabia over its rival Iran. He withdrew from the multinational agreement that relaxed economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program and instead imposed new curbs on the country.

He also vetoed legislation that would have ended U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The UAE is part of the Saudi coalition. The vote on the bill was one of the rare times that Senate Republicans rebuffed Trump.

Khashoggi, who had written articles critical of the Saudi government, was murdered after he went into the Saudi Consulate in Turkey last October.