Skip to main content

Trump May Use ‘Obscure Loophole’ to Push Saudi Arms Deal Through, Lawmaker Warns


In declaring a national emergency to redirect money for a border wall that Congress refused to fund back in February, many experts noted that President Donald Trump set himself apart from his predecessors by invoking the executive emergency powers as a means to bypass legislative prerogative rather than to expedite a generally agreed upon course of action. On the heels of this, it appears that Trump may be planning a similar maneuver to sidestep Congress in the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, despite clear objections from lawmakers.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) claimed that Trump may be planning to declare an “emergency” in order to sell American-made bombs to Saudi Arabia by using an obscure statutory loophole.

Murphy said that the Trump Administration may be planning to circumvent Congress and provide the Saudis new American-made bombs by exploiting a loophole in the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).

In a Twitter thread, Murphy claimed he’s heard reports that the administration is planning to cut Congress out of the process by declaring that the sale of bombs to the Saudis constitutes an emergency. Taking this step would allow Trump to enact the sale with Saudi Arabia without Congress even getting the chance to review the sale, which is required under normal circumstances.

Murphy speculated that Trump may say the sale of arms is an emergency because of increased tensions with Iran, but warned that allowing that “would allow any president to claim any number of Middle East crises as an ’emergency’ and then Congress will never be able to object to an arms sale again.”

Murphy called for bipartisan support in preventing the president from another controversial emergency declaration, calling on his colleagues to “stand up right now and the the president not to set this dangerous precedent.”

Murphy is an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen, which has quickly devolved into one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world (with some estimating that up to 130 children are dying daily). Opposition to Saudi Arabia’s actions reached an acme following the state-sponsored murder of American resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Just last month, in an unprecedented measure, both chambers of Congress passed a war powers resolution demanding an end to the United States’ continued support of the Saudi armed forces in Yemen. Although Trump went on to veto the measure, the resolution signaled Congress’s dwindling support for Saudi interests.

Following Trump’s veto, Murphy announced that the Senate would be stopping all pending arms sales to Saudi Arabia, stating that “If there’s any weapons sale to Saudi Arabia to help them perpetuate the war inside Yemen, there’s going to be a vote to reject it on the Senate floor.”

[Image via LEAH MILLIS/AFP/Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.