By Nicholas Fandos
New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and other White House officials pushed a venture to bring nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over repeated legal and ethical warnings that potential conflicts of interest around the plan could put U.S. security at risk, concluded a new report from House Democrats released on Tuesday.
The 24-page report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee outlined actions taken in the early weeks of the Trump administration to secure government backing to have American companies build dozens of nuclear power plants across Saudi Arabia, potentially at the risk of spreading nuclear weapons technology. But House Democrats said there was evidence that as recently as last week, the White House was still considering the proposal.
Claims presented by whistleblowers and White House documents obtained by the committee show that the company backing the nuclear plan, IP3 International, and its allies in the White House were working so closely that the company sent a draft memo to the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, to circulate just days after the inauguration. Flynn had worked on the plan for IP3 during the Trump campaign and transition, the Democrats said, and continued to advocate for it in the White House.
Even after Flynn left the White House in February 2017, officials on the National Security Council pushed ahead, the Democrats said, ignoring advice from the NSC’s ethics counsel and other lawyers to cease all work on the plan because of potentially illegal conflicts. At a March 2017 meeting, a National Security Council aide tried to revive the IP3 plan “so that Jared Kushner can present it to the President for approval,” the Democratic report said, a reference to Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser.
The Democrats’ investigation comes at a sensitive time, when lawmakers of both parties are incensed over the Trump administration’s reluctance to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government over the slaying of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Kushner is scheduled to travel to the region next week to brief diplomats on the economic portions of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan.