WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the below statement after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published the findings of an investigation they requested into the Trump administration’s civil nuclear cooperation negotiations with Saudi Arabia, as well as any negotiation by the executive branch since December 2009. Originally requested on March 15, 2019, the senators asked the GAO, a non-partisan agency which conducts studies on behalf of Congress, to investigate reports that some of the negotiations under the Trump Administration have been carried out without proper oversight and in an opaque manner inconsistent with previous nuclear agreement negotiations.
“We thank the GAO for their efforts in putting together this important product. We requested this study because of concerns regarding how the United States has been engaging the Saudi government on nuclear cooperation, including why the Department of Energy, not the Department of State, took the lead in negotiations with the Saudi government.
“We remain, however, deeply concerned about the lack of interagency coordination and how it might lead to an agreement without proper safeguards to prevent nuclear proliferation. Additionally, we are concerned over the lack of information shared with Congress as required by the Atomic Energy Act and urge the executive branch to adhere with the law and keep Congress fully informed of its negotiations on nuclear cooperation agreements.
“In light of this issue, the GAO concluded Congress should amend the Atomic Energy Act to require regularly scheduled briefings to Congress regarding any nuclear cooperation negotiations. As we explore legislative changes to address these challenges, it is clear Congress must reassert is critical role in reviewing nuclear cooperation agreements to ensure these agreements do not pose an unnecessary risk to the United States. There is no doubt that the American public deserves greater transparency about the status of all nuclear negotiations.”
January 21, 2021