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Trump Administration May End Congressional Review of Foreign Arms Sales

The State Department and the Pentagon both declined to comment.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper supports ending the informal notification process, but is letting Mr. Pompeo take the lead in the efforts, officials with knowledge of the matter said. Mr. Esper thinks a faster process for arms sales would help him on a range of security issues in the Middle East, these officials said.

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

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

Three congressional committees are investigating whether Mr. Pompeo urged Mr. Trump to fire the State Department’s inspector general, Steve A. Linick, over inquiries Mr. Linick was conducting into the secretary. One of those focused on whether Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials acted illegally when he announced the “emergency” declaration to push through the $8.1 billion sales of weapons in 22 batches mainly to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Those sales had been held up since 2017 by lawmakers from both parties 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 generals’ 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 Mr. Linick was “undermining” the department.

Andrew Miller, a former department official, said he had heard that discussions had been underway for months among administration officials over ending the informal notification process.

He said some congressional offices became aware of the discussions at the time that State Department officials gave informal notification to those offices about the new $478 million package of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, which includes the license for Raytheon. Congressional aides say that license is just as troubling as the bombs.

“In terms of the policy, it has two contradictory effects,” said Mr. Miller, a deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy. “On one hand, it could circumvent congressional oversight 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.”

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