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Vox Sentences: A (nuclear) bombshell report

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A House report reveals Trump’s plans to develop nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia; Haitian officials arrest five Americans.


Trump’s nuclear venture in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Daniel Jayo/Getty Images
  • The White House pursued a plan to open nuclear power plants across Saudi Arabia despite concerns about conflicts of interest and national security, according to a new report from the House Oversight Committee. The House believes there is evidence that President Trump and his advisers are still considering this plan. [NYT / Nicholas Fandos]
  • Trump reportedly began thinking about this plan, which would put nuclear plants all over Saudi Arabia, as soon as his term started, and he met with nuclear advisers about the idea as recently as February 12. [BBC]
  • Also involved was the consulting firm IP3 International, connected to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The firm continues to support the nuclear agenda, known as the “Middle East Marshall Plan,” even though the construction of nuclear plants abroad could violate the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which aims to prevent nuclear proliferation. [Politico / Zack Colman]
  • The 24-page report also said the Trump administration pursued the plan despite objections from top advisers, including the chief of the National Security Council. Republican committee members say they were not included in drafting the report. [Washington Post / Tom Hamburger and Steven Mufson]
  • These revelations come as the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner prepares to travel to the Middle East, but his connections to the plan have raised suspicions. Westinghouse Electric, a power plant manufacturer that is involved in the administration’s potential plans in Saudi Arabia, is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, which invested in a Kushner family property when it was deeply in debt. [Newsweek / Cristina Maza]
  • Usually Congress would need to approve the export of American technology to other countries — but the Trump administration reportedly ignored warnings about legal constraints. [NYT / Nicholas Fandos]
  • Nuclear interests may be one reason the Trump administration has yet to condemn the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suspected to have been carried out on the orders of the Saudi crown prince, despite rallying cries of human rights violations from the international community. Khashoggi’s fiancée asked the EU on Tuesday to make sure justice is brought and ignore economic priorities. [Al Jazeera / Ylenia Gostoli]

Americans with semiautomatic weapons arrested in Haiti

  • Five Americans were charged with possession of illegal arms after they were arrested in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday when police stopped their vehicles, which did not have license plates and were loaded with firearms. A Russian, a Haitian, and a Serb were with the group. [Miami Herald / Jacqueline Charles]
  • The arrest comes on the heels of protests that started on February 7 over reported abuse of money from a Venezuelan oil program; protesters are demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. The riots prompted the US Embassy to issue a travel warning for Americans. [Bloomberg / Michael McDonald]
  • It’s not clear how the foreigners entered Haiti — no seal of entry was on their passports. Their apparent mission for an unnamed “government” is also confusing law enforcement. Haiti’s secretary of state denied one reported theory that the individuals were working for the government as mercenaries to terrorize Haitians revolting against the president. [Haiti Libre]
  • The arrests are bringing more international attention to Haiti, where anti-corruption riots have spawned violent clashes, damaged property, and even caused deaths. While the riots are slowing down now, Port-au-Prince and other cities are struggling to address local scarcity of gas and water as well as supply overcrowded hospitals. [CNN / Sam Kiley]

Miscellaneous

  • The Vatican has confirmed that a department that monitors Catholic priests has guidelines for clergy who violate the church’s celibacy rules and become fathers. Priests’ children will be present at the Vatican’s meeting on child abuse later this week. [NYT / Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo]
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has announced a second campaign for president. The independent is a leader of the polls and has championed a Medicare-for-all bill that’s been endorsed by other presidential hopefuls in his party. [NPR / Scott Detrow and Jessica Taylor]
  • A new department within the Air Force will be dedicated to space. President Trump will sign Space Policy Directive 4 on Tuesday, inaugurating what is deemed a counter-effort against Russia and China in space. [Politico / Jacqueline Klimas]
  • A 24-year-old American, Hoda Muthana, is begging US officials to let her and her son return to the US, claiming she was “brainwashed” by ISIS. Muthana is currently in a refugee camp in northern Syria. She spread ISIS propaganda online and was married to three different ISIS fighters. [ABC News / Enjoli Francis, Desiree Adib, Josh Margolin, and Morgan Winsor]
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will leave his position in mid-March. In a recent interview, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Rosenstein reportedly contemplated removing President Trump after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. An official said Rosenstein’s departure has nothing to do with McCabe’s statements. [Washington Post / Matt Zapotosky]

Verbatim

“We did not begin meddling in this area until 1964, nearly 175 years after the First Amendment was ratified. The States are perfectly capable of striking an acceptable balance between encouraging robust public discourse and providing a meaningful remedy for reputational harm.” [Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in an opinion calling for reconsideration of the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan, which holds that public figures have a higher barrier to claim libel]


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