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Multiple whistleblowers say there is an effort within the Trump administration to illegally transfer "highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia." Their claims were revealed in an explosive report released Tuesday by the House Oversight Committee.
The allegations center around a company called IP3, which is pushing a multi-billion dollar plan to build 40 nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia. Using American nuclear technology is strictly controlled by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and requires the approval of Congress. The protections are intended to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
But the whistleblowers claim there is an aggressive effort to get the Trump administration to approve the plan unilaterally.
IP3's leadership includes former General Jack Keane, former Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, and former National Security Adviser Bud McFarlane. IP3 also enlisted Tom Barrack, a personal friend of President Trump with extensive financial ties to Saudi Arabia, to champion its plan.
The Committee is concerned that IP3's proposal is under active consideration by the Trump administration. Just last week "the President met with nuclear power developers at the White House about sharing nuclear technology with countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia." The meeting included Keane and another top executive from IP3.
One senior official quoted in the report described IP3's proposal as "not a business plan," but "a scheme for these generals to make some money."
The Kushner connection
Jared Kushner bought the tower at 666 5th Avenue for $1.8 billion in 2008, at the height of the real estate bubble. The aging tower soon started losing tenants and hemorrhaging millions. Worse, the Kushner family faced a balloon payment on its $1.4 billion mortgage that would have been due this month.
But last August, a company called Brookfield bailed the Kushner family out of Jared Kushner's billion dollar boondoggle. According to reports, Brookfield paid the Kushners $1.1 billion upfront for a 99-year lease of the building, allowing the family to pay down its debts.
Why was Brookfield interested in the aging property which failed to attract a buyer for more than two years?
We don't know for sure, but a nugget buried in the House Oversight Committee report may provide a clue. In January 2018, Brookfield "announced its plans to acquire Westinghouse Electric for $4.6 billion." Westinghouse Electric "is the bankrupt nuclear services company that is part of IP3’s proposed consortium to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia."
Jared Kushner is seen as a key player in getting IP3's plan approved. He is extremely close to Saudi leadership, especially Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The strategy to get Trump to approve IP3's plan, according to one whistleblower, was for Kushner to "present it to the President for approval."
Is 666 5th Avenue a bad investment for Brookfield? Maybe. But if it ultimately helps Westinghouse, its new acquisition, score a multi-billion dollar deal to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, it will be worth it.
The Flynn connection
IP3's inside man was Mike Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser who is currently awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI. Flynn signed on as an adviser for IP3 while he was advising Trump on national security issues during the 2016 campaign. Once he became national security adviser, he continued to advocate for the plan.
Flynn's point man for the project was Derek Harvey, who Flynn put in charge of Middle East issues on the National Security Council (NSC). Career NSC staff told Harvey that he needed to follow the procedures of the Atomic Energy Act, but Harvey ignored them. After Flynn was fired in February 2017 for lying about his contacts with Russia, Harvey continued to advocate for the IP3 project.
Harvey was fired by Flynn's replacement, H.R. McMasters, in July 2017.
The Barrack Connection
IP3 enlisted Tom Barrack, Trump's longtime friend and the chairman of his inaugural committee, to push its plan to build dozens of nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia. Barrack has deep ties with the Saudis. His investment company, Colony NorthStar, "has raised more than $7 billion in investments since Mr. Trump won the nomination, and 24 percent of that money has come from the Persian Gulf — all from either the U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia," according to the New York Times. A spokesman for Barrack boasted that his relationship with leaders in Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries "span as far back as the reign of even some of the grandfathers of the current regional rulers."
IP3's plan was to convince Trump to appoint Barrack as a special envoy to get the nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia finalized.
Colony NorthStar, meanwhile, prepared a memo on the various ways the company could profit off of its connections to the White House. Ideas to generate revenues have taken on a new urgency as Barrack's company is reeling from a disastrous merger with two other firms.
The Khashoggi Connection
The pursuit of a multi-billion dollar nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia may help explain the administration's muted response to the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the orders of Saudi leadership.
Barrack, appearing on a CNN panel, said that "whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse, to the atrocities in Saudi Arabia." He said the controversy over Khashoggi's murder is an example of "the West misunderstanding the East."
After an uproar, he apologized for his comments and called Khashoggi's murder "atrocious," immediately adding, "I feel strongly that the bad acts of a few should not be interpreted as the failure of an entire sovereign kingdom."
The Trump administration, meanwhile, failed to produce a report about Khashoggi's murder within 120 days of a request by Congress, which is required under a law known as the Magnitsky Act. That deadline passed earlier this month.
The administration said it was within Trump's "discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate." It did not explain why it didn't produce a report.
The media connection
Former Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend has played a central role in pushing the Trump administration to send nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
According to the Oversight Committee report, in March 2017, Townsend reached out directly to White House Homeland Security Advisor Thomas Bossert to promote the Saudi nuclear plan. She then sent the staff of the NSC several documents about the plan. Bossert later arranged for Townsend to meet with NSC staff about IP3's plan for Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Townsend provided on-air commentary about international issues, including Saudi Arabia, on CBS. Her financial interests in Saudi Arabia were never disclosed on air. On Twitter, she embraced conspiracy theories about Khashoggi's murder, claiming that Saudi Arabia was being framed and Khashoggi's engagement (his stated reason for visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey) was a hoax. On CBS, while providing mild criticism of Khashoggi's murder, she described the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the result of Iranian aggression, without noting the role of the Saudi regime, including a blockade and persistent shellings.
Jack Keane, the former general, plays a similar role on Fox News. He does not disclose his position at IP3 or his financial incentive for the U.S. to maintain positive relationships with Saudi Arabia. Keane frequently provides positive commentary about Saudi Arabia on air.
The Oversight Committee called what it released on Tuesday an "interim report." It will now launch a full investigation. The Committee will request more information from several entities, including IP3 and Colony NorthStar.
Next week, "Kushner will be embarking on a tour of Middle Eastern capitals—including Riyadh" -- and the plan to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia may be discussed.
Thanks for reading!