It smelled a little swampy late last month when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress that the Trump administration wouldn’t be waiting for its approval to sell billions of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. The administration used emergency powers to do so, citing the “fundamental threat” posed by Iran’s alleged misbehavior.
Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that the State Department has kicked to the curb a former Raytheon lobbyist, Charles Faulkner, who served as deputy assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the department. He reportedly “took part” and “work[ed] on efforts” leading up to the emergency declaration.
Then, further down in the same report, another instance in which Faulkner appeared to have worked to benefit his former employer: Last year, Pompeo said in writing that Saudi Arabia was taking the steps necessary to reduce civilian casualties in its bloody and famine-inducing war in Yemen. That documentation was required in order to continue selling arms to the Saudis — including billions in Raytheon missile sales.
Per the Journal’s sources: “In last year’s debate, Mr. Faulkner and the legislative affairs team were the only ones to urge Mr. Pompeo to certify that Saudi Arabia was doing enough to satisfy U.S. concerns.” There’s a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing next week on the matter, we’ll be watching.
Meanwhile, overseas: After much hemming and hawing, the Navy admitted that, yes, someone (presumably from the White House, as reports indicate) requested they “minimize the visibility” of the USS John McCain for President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan. Whoever did it, the President is sure, was “well-meaning, I will say.”
It’s becoming a trend: People write flattering books about the President and are rewarded handsomely for their work. Conrad Black, the billionaire and author of “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” received a presidential pardon. One author of “Trumponomics,” the pundit Stephen Moore, was discussed as a Federal Reserve Board nominee. The other author, Arthur Laffer, we learned this week, will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Huh!
Ethics experts told TPM that Trump’s call for his followers to boycott “Fake News” CNN’s parent company AT&T was more than inappropriate. The massive telecomms company currently holds a $3.3 billion National Security Agency contract, for example. If that changes, Trump’s tweet could be cited in the inevitable lawsuit.
To the agencies: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s trip to China was cancelled after “alarmingly inappropriate” requests including, among other things, that family members travel with her and receive accommodations at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Trump’s trip to Europe, on which he was accompanied by his large adult children who are not members of the administration, raised similar questions.
Finally, remember the socks former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke posted on social media last year with the President’s campaign slogan on them? Turns out, you can’t do that. Zinke violated the Hatch Act with the socks, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined in December, per the Washington Post. He faced no consequences.