Trump Approved Saudi Nuclear Agreements After Khashoggi Murder

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(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration authorized U.S. companies to work on nuclear energy projects in Saudi Arabia even after the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. senator said Tuesday.

The U.S. Energy Department approved two transfers of nuclear expertise from American companies to Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s killing, Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat said in a statement. The first approval came 16 days after Khashoggi’s death in October 2018, said Kaine, a member of the the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, who requested the information from the department months ago.

“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,” Kaine said in a statement.

The Energy Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The department has previously said it has approved seven so-called part 810 agreements November 2017 authorizing U.S. companies to share information and expertise, but has not publicly disclosed the timing of them.

The Trump administration is in the process of negotiating a broader “123 Agreement” to allow the sale of nuclear technology to the Kingdom, a move that could provide a lifeline to U.S. companies such as Westinghouse Electric Co., which have been hit hard by a downturn in the construction of nuclear power plants.

But those talks have received bipartisan blowback in Congress after reports the Trump administration wouldn’t seek to prohibit the Saudis from enriching nuclear fuel into weapons-grade materials.

A federal watchdog agreed to investigate those talks at the request of lawmakers who voiced concern they were being conducted in an “opaque manner” without the oversight required by federal law.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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