Senator Chris Murphy argued that President Donald Trump is committing "nuclear nonproliferation malpractice" by transferring nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia against the wishes of Congress, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers aims circumvent a multibillion-dollar arms sale to the kingdom.
"The president's committing nuclear nonproliferation malpractice," Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said during a Wednesday morning interview with MSNBC's Morning Joe. "Because he's pulled out of the Iran agreement, and by selling to the Saudis nuclear technology, it makes it much more likely that the Iranians are going to restart their nuclear program, because they see that the Saudis have a head start," the senator warned.
"So, this is absolutely disastrous," he asserted.
Senate Democrats revealed on Tuesday that the Trump administration had approved the transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia on at least two occasions after the brutal murder of U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of a Saudi kill squad in Turkey last October. Trump's cabinet officials took months to inform Congress of the transfers, despite Republican and Democratic lawmakers voicing serious concerns and opposition to such a move.
Although Saudi Arabia claims to want the nuclear technology to build energy reactors to provide power for the kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely seen as the kingdom's de-facto ruler, said in March 2018 that the kingdom would create a nuclear weapon to counter the perceived threat from Iran.
"Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," the crown prince told CBS News in an interview.
Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, slammed the Trump administration's decision to transfer the nuclear information to the Saudi regime in a Tuesday press release.
"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," he said.
Khashoggi was tortured, killed and cut into pieces with a bonesaw after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at the beginning of last October. Although the kingdom initially denied the killing of the U.S. resident, who was a prominent Saudi dissident who had fled the kingdom, it later admitted that the operation had been carried out after intense international backlash. Intelligence reports strongly linked the crown prince to signing off on the journalist's murder, but Trump has consistently defended the kingdom. Calling Saudi Arabia a "great ally," the president has argued that the U.S. needs the kingdom to continue buying weapons and to ensure global oil prices remain low.
Leading Republicans and Democrats have strongly disagreed with the president, attempting to block the sale of weapons to the kingdom. Lawmakers have also raised objections to Washington's continued support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has led to a massive famine, a cholera outbreak and the death of thousands of civilians.
In April, Congress passed a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition involved in the conflict, but Trump used his second presidential veto to block the move. Now Republicans and Democrats aim to force 22 resolutions to rebuke the Trump administration for circumventing Congress to sell the kingdom weapons by declaring a national emergency.
"We will not stand idly by and allow the president or the secretary of state to further erode congressional review and oversight of arm sales," New Jersey's Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement this week.
In his Wednesday interview with Morning Joe, Murphy insinuated, as many analysts and lawmakers have in the past, that Trump's unwavering support for Saudi Arabia is somehow related to his and his family's personal financial interests.
"It's an inexplicable move by the administration," the senator said. "And for many of us, I think we can't understand it outside the framework of the Trump family's personal relationship with the Saudis," he explained.
"There's a lot of money that historically has flowed from Gulf state individuals to the Trump family fortune, to their real estate empire," Murphy pointed out, "and that has to be part of the explanation as to why they continue to bend over backwards to try to make the Saudis happy."