Former national-security adviser Mike Flynn and others within the White House ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings as they pushed early in President Trump’s tenure a plan to build dozens of nuclear-power reactors in Saudi Arabia, according to a report released Tuesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The report describes how Mr. Flynn and Derek Harvey, whom Mr. Flynn brought to the National Security Council staff to oversee Middle East affairs, worked closely on the plan with a group of retired U.S. generals and admirals who had formed a private company to promote it.
Despite the warnings from career White House staff—and an order by the NSC’s top lawyer to stand down—the White House officials and their private-sector allies worked to place the idea on Mr. Trump’s agenda during a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, and to be discussed during the U.S. president’s May 2017 trip to Riyadh, his first overseas trip as president, the report says.
The plan for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, part of an ambitious “Middle East Marshall Plan,” was billed by advocates as a way to revive the moribund U.S. nuclear industry, create jobs and reassert American influence in the region.
But one unnamed senior official quoted in the report derided the idea as “a scheme for these generals to make some money.”
Private-sector backers of a controversial Middle East nuclear-power plan worked with former national security adviser Mike Flynn to promote it inside the White House, to the point of sending him a draft memo for the president to sign authorizing the project.
At issue was a proposal to build dozens of nuclear reactors, billed by its backers as a “Marshall Plan for the Middle East.” Before joining the White House, Mr. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, had advised some of the U.S. companies involved in the plan in his capacity as a consultant... The plan was projected to generate $250 billion in revenue for U.S. companies.. Evidence now is surfacing about how far it progressed inside the administration, and how Mr. Flynn’s former staffer continued to promote it after Mr. Flynn left office in February... Since his resignation, his former private-sector colleagues have continued to lobby various federal agencies about the plan and recently met with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser... In early January, Mr. Flynn talked favorably about the proposed deal with Mr. Trump’s friend, real-estate magnate Thomas Barrack Jr... Mr. Flynn arrived at his National Security Council job with a group of people who felt the Obama administration had been too soft on Iran. They believed the nuclear-power plan, which envisioned building and operating dozens of nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East, would strengthen Iran’s rivals... One of the people Mr. Flynn brought with him, former Army Col. Derek Harvey, said at a meeting during the first week of the new administration that Mr. Flynn had told him to develop a regional economic and energy plan for the Middle East. When staffers pointed out there was an NSC office that handled economic and energy issues, Mr. Harvey said Mr. Flynn had directed him to take the lead on the issue... After Mr. Flynn was ousted, Mr. Harvey pushed NSC colleagues to continue working on the nuclear plan. The private-sector group still promotes the deal and holds weekly meetings.