Former Trump Adviser Pushed Saudi Nuclear-Plant Plan, Report Says

Mike Flynn and others within the White House ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings, according to House report

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 Wall Street Journal first reported many of the details of the Saudi plan and Mr. Flynn’s efforts to advance it inside the White House in a series of articles in 2017.

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.

.. Another key player in the Saudi nuclear effort was Tom Barrack, a Trump ally who chaired his Inaugural Committee. according to the committee’s report.

“Tom Barrack has been thoroughly briefed on this strategy and wants to run it for you. He’s perfect for the job,” Robert “Bud” McFarlane, a one-time adviser to President Reagan who was an adviser to IP3 International, a private firm pitching the nuclear plan, wrote to Mr. Flynn on Jan. 28, 2017.

.. Mr. Flynn’s involvement in the project was controversial because he had worked as a paid adviser to an IP3 subsidiary, Iron Bridge Group Inc., from June to December 2016, while a senior adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

.. On Jan. 30, 2017, the National Security Council’s top lawyer, John Eisenberg, instructed the NSC staff “to cease all work on the plan” because of potential conflicts of interest and other legal concerns, the report says.

Despite that order, and Mr. Flynn’s firing, “officials inside the White House continued to move forward on the IP3 nuclear plan,” the report says. It says that more than five individuals recall Mr. Harvey saying during a meeting on March 2, 2017, that “I speak with Michael Flynn every night.” That was more than two weeks after Mr. Flynn was fired.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are on their way to the White House

Trump’s personnel choices seem designed to either reward personal loyalty or embody a certain perception of competencethe competence of generals who know how to give orders and of billionaires who know how to make money.

.. Failed politicians, in this view, need to be schooled. Never mind that the habits of command are not immediately transferrable to some of the main tasks in a democracy — persuasion, compromise and public policy innovation.

.. Failed politicians, in this view, need to be schooled. Never mind that the habits of command are not immediately transferrable to some of the main tasks in a democracy — persuasion, compromise and public policy innovation.

.. Apart from a few vivid campaign promises on immigration and infrastructure — which have also been renegotiated since the election — Trump has radical freedom of action. He owes no one, holds no definite ideology and will be forgiven even the worst heresies by his supporters

.. His large tax cuts and commitment to a balanced budget may force nondefense discretionary spending — only about 16 percent of the budget — to be a repeated blood donor, until it is pasty white and weak.

.. But who can possibly predict what will be in President Trump’s budget address to Congress in February? Who can know what Trump does not yet know himself? In the period between now and then, the identity of a presidential administration will be determined, in many areas from scratch.

.. He seems caught in a cycle: a few days on message, then a conspiratorial or bullying statement or tweet, then a scramble by Republicans to solicit intervention from “the family,” who give the president-elect the political equivalent of lithium and get him back on message before the next manic stage.

Who is Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chairman who may become secretary of state?

So far, Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks have mostly been either multimillionaire and billionaire executives or retired generals.

.. In that context, it’s probably less of a surprise that Trump may be close to selecting ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, elevating a dark-horse prospect who may surge past seasoned political actors like Mitt Romney and Sen. Bob Corker in the stretch.

.. Tillerson has no experience in the public sector, a first in modern history for a potential secretary of state.

.. Two years before receiving the award, ExxonMobil won a contract to explore for oil in a Russia-controlled portion of the Arctic Ocean, which was made more economically viable for drilling in part thanks to the sea ice decline that’s followed global warming.

.. Once Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the United States instituted sanctions against Russia which froze ExxonMobil’s Arctic agreement. Were those sanctions to be lifted, the deal would likely move forward — making Tillerson’s shares of ExxonMobil stock much more valuable.

.. Tillerson is a lifelong Boy Scout. Tillerson was an Eagle Scout in his youth and eventually became president of the national organization. It was under his leadership — and through his advocacy — that the organization embraced the membership of young men who identified as gay.