Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., blasted the Trump administration Tuesday, revealing - based on information he said the Energy Department gave him - that it approved transfers of nuclear technical expertise to Saudi Arabia on at least two occasions after journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder.
Kaine, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, obtained the information after pressing the administration for months over the issue.
The first approval, he said, came a little over two weeks after Khashoggi's murder, which many suspected came at the hands of the Saudi government.
“The alarming realization that the Trump Administration signed off on sharing our nuclear know-how with the Saudi regime after it brutally murdered an American resident adds to a disturbing pattern of behavior," Kaine said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Kaine went on to call out Trump on a number of issues related to Saudi Arabia. "That includes citing a bogus emergency to bypass a Congressional block on arms sales to the Saudis, continuing support for the disastrous war in Yemen over Congressional objections, turning a blind eye to the regime’s detention of women’s rights activists, and refusing to comply with the Global Magnitsky Act to reach a determination about the Saudi government’s responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi," he said.
Kaine also criticized the administration for its apparent reluctance to provide information on its activity with the Saudis.
“It has taken the Trump Administration more than two months to answer a simple question—when did you approve transfers of nuclear expertise from American companies to Saudi Arabia? And the answer is shocking," he said.
"The Administration has approved transfers on seven occasions, the first occurring on December 13, 2017. Notably, the Administration approved two transfers after the Saudi government assassinated Virginia resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi."
Trump, in May, bypassed lawmakers' approval of an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, prompting condemnation from Senate Democrats.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. said.
The State Department defended the move as a way to help an ally amid Iranian provocations. "Iran’s malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to Americans at home and abroad," an official said.
"We took this step of prudent diplomatic deterrence to augment our partners’ long-term capacity for self-defense and threat mitigation."
The administration has received criticism for maintaining close ties with the Saudis after Khashoggi's murder but in April, the State Department made 16 individuals, who played a role in the journalist's killing, ineligible to enter the United States.