Trump lied about $110bn Saudi arms deal — it doesn’t exist

We learn this morning that Donald Trump lied about the alleged $110 billion arms deal he claims to have inked during his visit to Saudi Arabia.

The deal doesn’t exist.

Or, as Brookings’ Bruce Riedel, who uncovered the ruse, put it: “The $100 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia is fake news.”

Not only did Riedel discover that there is no arms deal — and that many of the agreements Trump claimed credit for actually happened during the Obama administration — he also found that Saudi Arabia probably doesn’t have the money to pay for a deal of such a size.

Much of what Trump calls a “deal” are letters of interest and letters of intent, that have zero legal weight. They’re not contracts.

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Trump curtsies to the Saudi King.

I’ve spoken to contacts in the defense business and on the Hill, and all of them say the same thing: There is no $110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts. Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday. So far nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arms sales wing of the Pentagon, calls them “intended sales.” None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration….

Which leads Riedel to call this “fake news”:

What the Saudis and the administration did is put together a notional package of the Saudi wish list of possible deals and portray that as a deal. Even then the numbers don’t add up. It’s fake news.

And he notes, the Saudis couldn’t pay for this large a package anyway:

Moreover, it’s unlikely that the Saudis could pay for a $110 billion deal any longer, due to low oil prices and the two-plus years old war in Yemen. President Obama sold the kingdom $112 billion in weapons over eight years, most of which was a single, huge deal in 2012 negotiated by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. To get that deal through Congressional approval, Gates also negotiated a deal with Israel to compensate the Israelis and preserve their qualitative edge over their Arab neighbors. With the fall in oil prices, the Saudis have struggled to meet their payments since.

This reminds me of during the transition, when Trump claimed credit for all of these “new jobs” that companies were allegedly bringing to America now that Trump had strong-armed them. Much of the media breathelessly reported on Trump’s “success,” only to find out later that most of it too was fake news (they were jobs created under Obama).

But Trump knows that an early lie lives longer than a late truth. Everyone hears about his “big deals”; few hear the follow-up debunking the lie once again. It argues, at the very least, that any of Trump’s future business deals or jobs numbers have to be reported as unproven, and possibly untrue based on past experience.

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