Watchdog report says Trump administration ignores risks to civilians in Saudi arms deal

The Trump administration failed to assess the risk of civilian death when it approved the sale of bombs and other weapons to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, according to a government release.

The report said the State Department did not violate the law on arms exports when it declared an “emergency” bypassing Congress and through an $ 8.1 billion arms deal.

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General found that “the Department has not fully assessed the risk and implemented mitigation measures to mitigate civilian casualties and legal concerns associated with the transfer of PGMs included in the Secretary’s May 2019 emergency certification” Is, ”the report states. For precisely guided munitions.

Congress requested an Inspector General investigation into the May 2019 decision of Inspector Donald Trump to take extraordinary steps to meet the need for a 30-day congressional review of major arms sales. Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo implemented a rarely used provision to circumvent Congress, declaring a state of emergency due to tensions with Iran.

The inspector general’s report did not evaluate whether the emergency declaration was appropriate, and noted that the State Department has broad discretion under the law on arms exports and how to define the emergency.

President Donald Trump during a White House meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on 20 March 2018, with a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia.Evan Vucci / AP File

NBC News previously reported that an investigation into the Saudi arms deal played a role in Trump’s sudden dismissal of then Inspector General Steve Linnick in May.

Lawmakers have launched an investigation into his firing and have warned about the sacking of other government inspector generals, accusing the chairman of trying to oversee the executive branch.

The State Department said in a statement released on Monday that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report represented a signal for the department and it was complied with by law.

“The transfers were necessary to increase the security of the Gulf region and our allies Israel against the sharp increase in Iranian invasion in 2019,” it said.

“During the 13-month interrogation of OIG, OIG interviewed 46 department employees – a surprising expense of taxpayers’ resources,” the department said.

Now that the report is out, the department said it expected Democrats in Congress “and media outlets that echoed its baseless accusations would publicly accept the findings of the report requested from the OIG and last year’s own Will withdraw the statements immediately. “

The report includes a number of cuts, including details on the timing of the State Department’s decision to make an emergency declaration in late May.

NBC News received an unrestricted version of the report showing that the State Department was considering an emergency declaration as early as April 3, more than a month before Pompeo briefed Congress about threats from Iran and On May 24, before the emergency decision was issued.

The Inspector General found that the State Department officials announced a possible transfer after which Pompeo asked about the option to secure clearance for the transfer of weapons. On May 4, Pompeo asked the “Bureau of Political-Military and Legislative Affairs to complete the process of certifying the emergency by May 24, 2019,” according to the unreliable version of the report.

The report said that on May 21, Pompeo, along with legalists, gave information about the threats emanating from Iran. But Democratic members later said the secretary made no mention of a possible emergency declaration to clear the way for the arms deal.

“While the potential use of emergency officers was closely placed within the department, additional department employees, including attorneys from the legal advisor’s office, were consulted before the Secretary’s formal decision,” it said.

After the announcement was released in May 2019, precision-guided bombs were among the first items to be delivered, the non-certified report said.

But according to the report, only a part of the arms deal was pulled out at the time of the Inspector General’s investigation, despite the fact that the sale was immediate.

The unrestricted report stated, “At the time of the OIG’s review, foreign partners had taken full delivery of 4 of the 22 arms transfer cases involved in the May 2019 emergency.”

At the time of the inspector general’s investigation, only $ 20 million in foreign military sales were involved, with the emergency decision being implemented in a billions of dollars overall deal, the Untreduct report said.

The State Department has also estimated that five of the 22 cases involved in the emergency decision will not begin distribution until 2020, or even later, according to the unused report.

The lawmakers had blocked several proposed sales of precision-guided bombs and other hardware manufactured by Raytheon Technologies, arguing that American-made weapons could contribute to Yemen’s five-year civil war in a growing civilian death and humanitarian crisis.

Democrats questioned the emergency declaration and accused the administration of failing to provide evidence that Saudi had needed immediate sales of smart bombs due to long-standing tensions with Iran.

The Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly been under fire in Yemen over its air war being carried out by human rights groups and the United Nations.

According to UN estimates, there were 17,640 combat-related civilian casualties in Yemen from March 2015 to November 2018, and 10,852 were caused by Saudi-led bombings.

In September last year, the United Nations said a mosque was attacked by a coalition and a family home killed 22 civilians. In October 2019, coalition airstrikes affected the UN-backed water system, which serves 12,000 people in the fourth such strike since 2016.