June 12, 2019

Warren, Lieu Call for Investigation into State Dept. Official's Efforts to Fast Track Saudi Arms Deal Benefitting Former Client Raytheon

Report Raises Concerns About Potential Ethics Law Violations

Lawmakers' Letter Comes After Trump Administration's Questionable Use of Emergency Authority to Avoid Congressional Review of Arms Sales

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. State Department urging him to investigate the involvement of Charles Faulkner, a former State Department official, in a recent Trump Administration decision to use emergency powers to waive Congressional review of billions of dollars-worth of planned arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The lawmakers' letter follows a recent report suggesting that Mr. Faulkner used his official position to fast track the potential arms deal in order to benefit the defense contractor Raytheon, his former lobbying firm's client.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Faulkner, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, was reportedly forced out of his position last month "after working on efforts leading to the emergency declaration" to accelerate arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE without the typically-required Congressional review. The report indicated that Mr. Faulkner was also involved in efforts last year to encourage Secretary of State Pompeo to certify that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were taking "demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians" from their U.S.-armed military operations in Yemen, and said that "failure to do so would jeopardize pending arms sales to the Gulf, which included the stalled Raytheon deals."

Mr. Faulkner previously worked at BGR Group where he lobbied for Raytheon, which makes so-called "smart bombs" used by the Saudis and Emiratis in their ongoing military campaign in Yemen. In addition, BGR was formerly registered with the Justice Department as an agent of the Saudi government until "on or about October 16, 2018." This report is even more troubling since American-made bombs have been used in airstrikes that resulted in the deaths of Yemeni civilians, casting doubt over whether the United States should continue arming the Saudi-led coalition's bombing campaign in Yemen.

In their letter, Senator Warren and Representative Lieu noted that by participating in discussions over whether the Department should use its emergency authority to fast track the sale of arms manufactured by Raytheon, Mr. Faulkner may have violated federal ethics law and the Trump Administration ethics pledge. Federal ethics law requires individuals to recuse themselves from any "particular matter involving specific parties" if "the circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question his impartiality in the matter," and the Administration's ethics pledge prohibits government officials, for two years from the date of appointment, from participating in "any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to...former clients."

"Through Mr. Faulkner's apparent involvement in government actions aimed at ensuring continued lucrative arms sales to Raytheon, it appears that he violated his ethics pledge by using his official government position to advance policies that would directly and substantially benefit the financial interests of one of his former employer's major clients," wrote the lawmakers in their letter. "This is a disturbing example of a conflict of interest and blatant government corruption."

The lawmakers requested that the IG immediately launch an investigation into Mr. Faulkner's conduct at the State Department, including whether he violated his ethics pledge or any federal ethics laws during his government service related to these arms sales.  

"Government officials should work only for the American people - not their former lobbying firms or their big defense contractor clients," the lawmakers continued.

In August 2018, Senator Warren unveiled the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, a comprehensive bill that, among other ambitious measures, would prohibit former corporate lobbyists like Mr. Faulkner from taking government jobs for at least six years after lobbying.

Senator Warren and Representative Lieu have each cosponsored bipartisan legislation, S.J.Res.7 and H.J.Res.37 respectively, that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition's military operations in Yemen.