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Trump vetoes congressional action to block Saudi arms sales

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council May 21, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

By Joe Gould, Air Force Times

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump on Wednesday (July 24) vetoed three congressional resolutions meant to block his administration from bypassing Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Congress passed the measures as a reassertion of Congress’s power after the Trump administration declared an emergency and later cited threats from Iran and Saudi Arabia’s status as bulwark against its influence in the Mideast. The sale includes precision-guided bombs and related components.

The Trump administration also cited an impact on the global supply chain ― specifically allies United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, France, Spain and Italy, which have co-production licensing agreements for some of the systems.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Robert Menendez, led the effort with backing from Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul.

The effort channeled frustration on Capitol Hill over civilian casualties in the U.S.-backed and Saudi- led air campaign in Yemen as well as the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

After Trump’s veto, Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, condemned the “arms sale fiasco” and vowed to continue the fight against it. “These weapons are going to continue fueling a reckless and brutal campaign of violence and exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” Engel said in a statement.

Separately, a pair of U.S. senators met earlier in the day with Princess Reema bint Bandar, the new Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States, to express concerns about “the bombings of civilian targets and worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the lack of accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the unprecedented level of domestic repression under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” according to a readout of the meeting.

The two were Sen. Chris Murphy, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, who is also the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

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