Trump administration could end congressional review of foreign arms sales

The State Department and the Pentagon declined to comment.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper supports ending the informal notification process, but is allowing Pompeo to take the lead in the efforts, officials with knowledge of the matter said. Esper believes that a faster arms sales process would help him in a variety of security problems in the Middle East, these officials said.

Career officials in both departments have warned political appointees against the end of the process.

The discussions come at a particularly delicate time for Mr. Pompeo.

Three congressional committees are investigating whether Pompeo urged Trump to fire State Department inspector general Steve A. Linick for inquiries that Mr. Linick was addressing the secretary. One of them focused on whether Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials acted illegally when he announced the “emergency” declaration to boost arms sales by $ 8.1 billion in 22 batches, primarily to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. United. Those sales had been held back since 2017 by lawmakers on both sides in the informal notification process.

Mr. Pompeo was aware of Mr. Linick’s investigation and had submitted a written statement in response to questions from the inspector general’s office. In early March, investigators briefed several senior State Department officials on their findings, but the report has not been completed.

Mr. Pompeo has said that Mr. Linick was “undermining” the department.

Andrew Miller, a former department official, said he had heard that discussions had been ongoing for months among administration officials about the completion of the informal notification process.

He said some offices of Congress became aware of the discussions as State Department officials informally notified those offices of the new $ 478 million package of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, which includes the license to Raytheon. Aides to Congress say the license is as troubling as the bombs.

“In terms of politics, it has two contradictory effects,” said Miller, deputy director of policy for the Middle East Democracy Project. “On the one hand, it could circumvent oversight of Congress and lead to more reckless sales. On the other hand, it deprives the administration of an early opportunity to adjust sales to reflect Congressional concerns, which could actually lead to delays. ”