State Department Defends TPP, Migration Policies


The Obama State Department vigorously defended in a special briefing this week its proposed trade agreement and plans to assist migrants on a humanitarian basis.

During an all-day briefing May 16  for 30 opinion writers convened from across the country, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the lead in reiterating support for each policy, thereby rebutting opposition from many 2016 presidential candidates and state officials from both major parties.

Antony Blinken State Department JIPFirst, he rebutted criticisms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) tentative agreement. The TPP is pending before Congress after years of negotiation among 11 nations for a system of tariff-reductions and administrative policies.

“We see it here from a strategic position, not just trade,” said Blinken, shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo during his remarks. “Trade is going to happen. Who is going to write the rules? If it’s China the rules will not be to our liking.”

On the refugee issue, Blinken said war and other oppressive conditions are creating refugee conditions so dire that the United States and other advanced nations must address despite public opposition being voice against emigration policies, including President Obama's plan to allow some 10,000 refugees to enter the country from Syria after they are vetted as safe by the Department of Homeland Security.

Australian Ambassador to the U.S. Joe Hockey and Florida Sun Sentinel's Rosemary O'Hara (May 16, 2016 JIP Photo)He attacked "hateful rhetoric" by unnamed individuals who, he said, conflate "refugees with terrorists."

Eight other senior Obama administration officials amplified Blinken's overview in the all-day briefing delivered to the Association for Opinion Journalists for the 16th year. Australia's Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey hosted an off-the-record discussion also at his 18-room official residence May 15. He is shown during a dialog that Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O'Hara conducted with him.

Association members, primarily editorial page editors at major regional newspapers, attended. This editor, a member of the association, attended each event on behalf of our project.  

Below, President Barack Obama greets Secretary of State John Kerry before their meeting in the Oval Office, Dec. 16, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
 
President Obama greets Secretary of State John Kerry Dec. 16, 2015Migration Policy

"Americans can take pride that we have helped save millions of lives" via clean water, shelter and other basics in aid said U.S. Refugee and Migration Policy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard.

Also, Richard defended the administration's controversial plan to resettle 10,000 refugees to the United States from such war-torn nations as Syria: "This is," she said, "a very safe group of people." The Department of Homeland Security is undertaking a long and thorough vetting process, she said.

More generally, she said, "Everyone wants the [Persian] Gulf nations to do more. But as the price of oil goes down they are doing less."

The President’s Trade Agenda

National Economic Council Director Jeffrey Zients led a vigorous defense of the TPP proposal, which all three remaining Democratic and Republican 2016 presidential candidates have criticized.

"TPP is a different kind of trade agreement," Zients said, contrasting it with previous agreements like the 1990s Clinton Administration's North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that have helped shape the current debate.

"Most of the opposition we've observed is opposition to globalization more generally," said Dr. Rodney Ludema, chief economic at the State Department's Bureau of Economic of Business Affairs.

Other major areas for discussion included U.S. policy toward Latin America, the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. efforts to counter violent extremism, and U.S. cyberspace policy.

The broader context includes, of course, the success of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump running on an anti-immigrant, anti-TPP platform. The evidence of other flaws or opposition to the State Department's themes includes the massive lines at airport security checkpoints to deter terrorism and the administration's opposition to congressional action to enable 9/11 families to learn who funded 9/11 terrorists either via litigation or release of the still-secret 28 pages of a 2002 Senate-House study on terrorism funding that both the Obama and Bush administration have kept secret.

Our project has published many commentaries on these and related issues, with a sample excerpted below in an appendix. Whether such appraisals are positive or not, they benefit from this kind of close observation with the newsmakers. 

John KirbyTherefore, it is very helpful to hear directly about the methods and substance of the State Department's messages. In this instance, as indicated by our photos, most of the speakers were just six or seven feet away. More important, the dialog benefited from informed questions from prominent journalists.

John Kirby, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs (and shown at right), spoke for 20 minutes after leading the department's daily briefing.

Kirby is a retired admiral with 30 years Navy service, and is the only person in history to serve as the top State Department spokesman as well as for the Defense Department, his previous post.

"Our primary function," Kirby said, "is to communicate to the American people what the State Department is doing overseas."

AOJ May 18, 2016j

State Department briefing to Association of Opinion Journalists (AOJ) May 18, 2016. (Photo courtesy of AOJ) (JIP editor on right, near top)

 
Contact the author Andrew Kreig
 
 

 

Australian Relations With United States

Australia's Ambassador and Relations with United States

Joe Hockeyey Australian Ambassador to U.S. (2016-)Australian Embassy to the United States, The Hon. Mr. Joe Hockey, The Hon. Joe Hockey (shown in an official photo) is Australia’s Ambassador to the United States of America, taking up his posting in Washington in January 2016. Mr Hockey has had a long and distinguished career in public service. He first entered Parliament in 1996 as the Member for North Sydney and spent more than seventeen years on the front bench.

Wikipedia, Joe Hockey. Joseph Benedict "Joe" Hockey is a former Australian politician who was the Member of Parliament for North Sydney from 1996 until 2015. He was the Treasurer of Australia in the Abbott Government from 18 September 2013 until September 2015 when he resigned from Cabinet, having refused an alternative offer from the incoming Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. He previously served as the Minister for Human Services and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations in the Howard Government.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Kim Beazley leaves Washington, Nick O'Malley, Jan. 23, 2016. Kim Beazley arrived in Washington, DC, in the middle of the snowiest winter in the capital since 1880, in February, 2010, a year after Barack Obama was sworn into office. 

Beazley spent a crucial six years as ambassador, including the most significant years of the Obama era. He helped develop deeper military ties as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were first quieted, then slowly transformed into a war on terrorism. He was there to explain to his hosts when Australia abruptly changed its prime minister, five times.

He became a significant voice in the American capital when the President announced a "rebalance" to Asia and the Pacific, and he has been a force in lobbying for the Trans Pacific Partnership, the trade agreement that might one day lend that policy much of its substance.

It is telling that when the Abbott government took power in Australia and it went about a purge of Labor appointees, Beazley's term in DC was extended.

Days before he left, Beazley sat down with Fairfax Media to talk about how the US fared over the Obama era, and why the sometimes ugly political environment has not abated in the face of economic recovery.

"In my normal working week I would be in the State Department and the NSC [National Security Council] half a dozen times and in the Pentagon once a fortnight and the intelligence services once a fortnight," says Beazley. He also travelled widely, and, he says, watches a lot of early morning TV, swapping back and forth between the morning news and political programs. As Beazley leaves the relationship between the two nations is in good shape, even if some fret for the rebalance. The alliance has bipartisan support in both nations and Australia's voice is heard clearly in DC.

Selected News Coverage Relevant To State Department Briefing Issues

Antonin BlinkenAntony Blinken

Antony J. Blinken was confirmed by the United States Senate as Deputy Secretary of State on December 16, 2014. He was sworn in by Secretary Kerry on January 9, 2015. Shown in an official photo, he has held senior foreign policy positions in two administrations over two decades.

U.S. Department of State, Remarks at the National Conference of the Association of Opinion Journalists, Antony J. Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State, May 16, 2016.

I actually have a dubious past as a speechwriter, and the truth is I now benefit in the position that I have from someone who works on speeches with me, Ariana Berengaut, who is an incredibly talented person. So usually anything that I now get to say is simply me repeating whatever she’s put down on paper, which is a role that I used to play in part for President Clinton as a speechwriter back in the ’90s....

I just had the interesting experience of speaking at the National University in Vietnam. And for the first time, they actually carried a speech by a U.S. official live without censorship both on television and livestreaming, so a small sign of progress. Of course, much more significantly, the President will be going there in just a few weeks, and that will be an interesting moment to see and test the progress of freedom of speech in Vietnam.

But basically, the bottom line is this: Your voices, your curiosity, your skepticism really underwrite the public trust for all of us. And you hold us to account, which we don’t always express our appreciation for on a daily basis. But as citizens, as Americans who care about our country, deep down in our hearts, even if we don’t always say it, we deeply, deeply appreciate it. So I really wanted to be with you folks today just to say thank you for that.

Migration Policy

Washington Post, Lawmakers urge Md. Gov. Hogan to ease stance on Syrian refugees, Ovetta Wiggins and Martin Weil, May 11, 2016. First-term Republican has said he wants specific assurances refugees from her father on a pier in San Francisco on July 1 just before she was gunned down by an illegal alien criminal knowingly released by San Francisco authorities under that city's sanctuary policies.. We live in a cruel, dangerous world riddled with crime. That's the hard reality. But certainly, elected officials could move decisively if they wanted to against "Sanctuary Cities" and the dangerous criminal aliens who fly under the law. Criminal illegal alien may sound redundant; that's how your government describes illegal aliens who have committed serious offenses on top of their immigration violation.

Washington Post, They thought Obama’s action would allow travel. They were wrong, Pam Constable, Dec. 11, 2014. Many illegal immigrants are discovering that the president’s action doesn’t let families divided between the U.S. and their homelands to be reunited. Two years ago, when Obama announced a similar executive action granting temporary deportation relief to about 700,000 illegal immigrant youths, known as dreamers, the issue of family reunification was not as dire. Some dreamers grew up in the United States without their parents, but many came to the United States as children with older family members.

This time, though, many of the families who qualify for the president’s protection are the same kinds of families whose children, left behind in El Salvador or Honduras, surged across the U.S.-Mexico border this year after their parents — anxious to save them from gang violence or just longing to be with them — paid smugglers to bring them north. 

Gallup, Hispanics' Support for Obama Climbs After Executive Order, Justin McCarthy, Dec. 10, 2014. Hispanic Americans' approval of President Barack Obama's job performance is up 12 points, to 64%, since he issued an executive order protecting some immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally from deportation. Whites' and blacks' ratings of the president did not change meaningfully during this time.

Obama's executive order, issued Nov. 20, will create a program that allows immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to apply to work legally -- as long as they have no criminal record, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and have children. The 4 to 5 million immigrants that qualify could also become eligible for Medicare and Social Security. Obama has said that his efforts to overhaul the immigration system could be supplanted by congressional action. Since that announcement, his job approval ratings among all Americans have climbed two points.

Trade Policy

Huffington Post, Elizabeth Warren Tells Obama To Put Up Or Shut Up On Trade, Zach Carter, April 25, 2016. Progressive Democrats have been hoping to see a showdown between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton for years. Instead, they're getting a public feud between the senator from Massachusetts and President Barack Obama.

Obama accused Warren and congressional Democrats on Friday of being "dishonest" and spreading "misinformation" about the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a trade pact the administration is negotiating among 12 nations. The overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress oppose TPP, while Republican leaders support it. It was an unusually aggressive attack for the president -- accusing members of his own party not of having misplaced priorities, but of actively working to deceive the public. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

On Saturday, Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) (shown in file photos) responded with a letter essentially telling Obama to put up or shut up. If the deal is so great, Warren and Brown wrote, the administration should make the full negotiation texts public before Congress votes on a "fast track" bill that would strip the legislative branch of its authority to amend it.

National Press Club, Commerce Secretary Pritzker defends Trans-Pacific trade pact at NPC luncheon, Lawrence Feinberg, April 18, 2016. Photo/Image: Noel St. John. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, strongly defending the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, predicted it would be ratified by Congress this year despite criticism from the leading contenders for both the Democratic and Republican Penny Pritzker Noel St. John Noel St. Johnpresidential nominations.

“I think the window [for Congressional ratification] is this year," Pritzker said at a National Press Club luncheon April 18, adding "at the end of the day I think we will do the right thing.” She said support for the 12-nation agreement, signed by the Obama Administration in February, is “much stronger than reported in the press.” By cutting tariffs and harmonizing labor and environmental standards, the trade pact would expand American exports and increase American jobs, she said. Rejecting the TPP would cost $94 billion in U.S. economic output in one year, she added. To become effective, the agreement must be approved by a majority vote in both houses of Congress.

Since it was announced, the TPP has drawn criticism from Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernard Sanders. The only remaining major party candidate to support it is Republican John Kasich. The critics contend the pact will do little to expand the sale of American products abroad while reducing jobs and worker pay in the U.S.

Washington Post, No, President Obama, Elizabeth Warren isn’t wrong, Dana Milbank, April 24, 2015. Obama told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday that the populist Democratic senator from Massachusetts is in error in opposing a free-trade agreement his administration has been negotiating with 11 other Pacific nations. Elizabeth Warren is right: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an abomination because Obama had a chance to protect American workers from the harm that would inevitably come from such a pact, and he didn’t take it, or at least he hasn’t. As bad, Obama’s anointed successor, Hillary Clinton, waffled on the trade pact this week, offering only the banality that “any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages” — which, of course, they all claim to do.

FireDogLake, That Giant Sucking Sound, Jon Walker, Oct 13, 2011. That giant sucking sound you hear today is the sound of jobs being outsourced as President Obama signs into law three free trade deals; South Korea, Colombia and Panama. According to the Economic Policy Institute, passing the Korea Free Trade deal will likely cost this country 159,000 jobs. The three trade deals remain basically unchanged since George W. Bush negotiated them in his last term when he was unable to get them approved by the Democrats in Congress. Just like it took Nixon to go to China, it apparently takes a Democratic president to force through NAFTA-style free trade agreements that destroy American jobs.

Iran

President Obama and Vice President Biden announce an anti-nuclear deal with Iran July 14, 2015 (White House Photo)President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, announcing the signing of the Iran-nuclear agreement on July 14, 2015. (White House photo)

Consortium News, Political Pressure Stymies US-Iran Ties, Gareth Porter, May 14, 2016. With the Iran nuclear agreement, President Obama opened lines of communications to Iran, but political Iran Flagpressures in Washington prevent a more substantive shift in relations. A former Obama administration official has asserted that the Iranian nuclear deal marks a radical break with past U.S. policy, contradicting the official White House stance that the agreement is not leading to a new U.S.-Iran relationship.

LobeLog, Iran Nuclear Deal: One-time Event or Breakthrough? John Limbert, May 2, 2016. Tehran and Washington have apparently hired the same speechwriter to com­pose their public statements about the state of Iranian nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). In both capitals the proclaimed view is identical: the nuclear agreement is only a one-off event and has no larger implica­tions for U.S.-Iranian relations; there has been no break in the 35-year cycle of hostility between the two countries; the devil remains the devil, even if we had to make a deal with it; and the other side remains devious, domineering, and untrust­worthy and has not abandoned its long-time goal of doing (us) mischief.

There is even competition to outdo the other side in insisting that, because of this hostility, the JCPOA will remain a limited, unique episode. In his recent Iranian New Year’s message, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei denounced American “tricks” such as President Obama’s Persian New Year’s mes­sage to the Iranian people and his setting up a ceremonial Iranian haft-seen (tabletop arrangement of seven symbolic items) at the White House. He continued, “I am empha­sizing my point about the enemy; I mean the United States.” The nuclear deal, he insisted, has not changed that reality.

For its part, the U.S. has taken the same public attitude. President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice recently told The Atlantic reporter Jeff Goldberg:

The Iran deal was never primarily about trying to open a new era of rela­tions between the U.S. and Iran. The aim was simply to make a danger­ous country less dangerous. No one had any expectation that Iran would be a more benign actor.

John Limbert is Class of 1955 Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy. He served 34 years in the Foreign Service, including 14 months as a hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran.  He has recently authored "Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History" for the US Institute of Peace.

State Department Right To Protect Policies: Syria

Voice of America, US General's Surprise Visit to Kurds Prompts Syrian Rebels' Fury, Jamie Dettmer, May 23, 2016. A visit by a top U.S. military commander to northeast Syria to confer with Kurdish commanders and plot the next stage in the battle against the Islamic State group has provoked the anger of Syrian rebel commanders, who accuse the Obama administration of giving up on the Syrian revolution.

Joseph VotelIn interviews with VOA Monday, the Syrian rebels warned that the U.S.-led international coalition’s strategy is creating the circumstances for future sectarian violence between Arabs and Kurds by turning to the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to liberate Arab majority towns from Islamic State. The warning came in the wake of an unannounced 11-hour trip to Kurdish-controlled northern Syria Saturday by General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Votel (shown in an official photo) told Pentagon correspondents who accompanied him that the U.S. had to work with the allies it has on the ground against IS and that the defeat of the jihadist group remains for Washington the clear military priority — not the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

The SDF's Arab militias, several of whom have checkered histories, at best represent about 20 percent of the total SDF force, which can field about 30,000 fighters. Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders, however, insist the number of Arab fighters in the SDF is much lower than the claimed 5,000 to 10,000.

New York Times, Suicide Attacks Hit 2 Syrian Cities in Assad Stronghold, Killing Scores, Ben Hubbard and Maher Samaan, May 23, 2016. Two teams of suicide attackers launched coordinated assaults on Monday deep inside Syrian government territory, killing scores of people in a relatively secure region where support for President Bashar al-Assad runs high. The attacks, on bus stations and the emergency department of a public hospital, seemed to target civilians in a religiously diverse area whose population has doubled as Syrians from elsewhere in the country have sought refuge from violence in their own communities.

The attacks also appeared to reflect the changing tactics of the Islamic State as its military fortunes have dimmed. Having lost significant territory from their self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, they have turned their focus to external expansion while stepping up suicide bombings against civilian targets in places like Baghdad.

The attacks shattered the relative calm in two cities, Jableh and Tartus, both on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, a region where support for Mr. Assad remains strong and where militant attacks and rebel activity have been rare. While the concentration of Alawites is high, the area also has large populations of Christians and other Muslims.

Guardian, Kerry and Lavrov chair Vienna meeting aimed at kickstarting Syria peace effort, Ian Black, May 17, 2016. Optimism in short supply at meeting of International Syria Support Group, which hopes to John KerryJohn Kerry Sergei Lavrovpatch up partial ceasefire agreement. Efforts to stabilize a Syrian ceasefire and restart stalled peace talks face an uphill struggle in Vienna as the external powers most deeply involved in the crisis try to narrow their differences.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state (shown in an official photo), and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister (together shown in a file photo), are co-chairing a meeting of the International Syria Support Group on Tuesday in an attempt to patch up an agreement reached in February on a cessation of hostilities and expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas.

As well as the UK, France, the EU and the Arab League, the 17-member group includes Saudi Arabia and Turkey – which are seeking the overthrow of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad – and Iran, his most important regional ally. Neither the Syrian government nor opposition are taking part. Kerry spent the weekend in Jeddah in an apparent effort to persuade the Saudis to ensure that the anti-Assad rebels they support go along with the latest diplomatic effort, despite them having walked out of the last round of Geneva talks.

Associated Press via Fox News, Russians building army base at Syria's Palmyra site, Staff report, May 17, 2016. The Russian military is constructing a new army base in the central Syrian town of Palmyra, within the protected zone that holds the archaeological site listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site and without asking for permission from relevant authorities, an American heritage organization and a top Syrian archaeologist said Tuesday.May 16

RT, Oops! CIA watchdog ‘inadvertently’ destroys its only copy of torture report, Staff food, May 16, 2016.  The CIA’s internal watchdog “inadvertently” deleted its only copy of the Senate report on torture techniques employed by the agency in the wake of 9/11 – and did so while the Justice Department was insisting in court that copies were being stored.
Other copies still exist, including at the CIA itself, but news of the deletion is significant, as it occurred at the CIA inspector general’s office, which is in charge of overseeing policies and conduct at the agency to ensure that it is not breaking the law or acting out of bounds.

Syria's war map as of May 2016 (Map by Institute for the Study of War)Syria's war map as of May 2016 (Map by Institute for the Study of War)

BBC, Syria conflict: IS 'overruns hospital in Deir al-Zour,' Sebastian Usher, May 15, 2016. Militants from the Islamic State (IS) group have briefly overrun a hospital complex in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, reports say. Activists say about 35 pro-government fighters were killed and some medical staff taken hostage. More than 20 IS fighters were also reported killed. The attack was centred on al-Assad hospital, to the west of the city.

Government forces retook the hospital after several hours, reports say, but the fate of the hostages is unclear. The latest offensive shows that IS, despite recent setbacks, can still threaten significant government territory. IS controls more than of half of Deir al-Zour. The group has been besieging government-held areas there for two years, trapping about 200,000 civilians.

State Department Right To Protect Policies: General

Victoria Nuland, Geoffrey Pyattt and Petro Poroschenko 2014U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt greet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2014, with Secretary of State John Kerry in the background.

American Conservative, Clinton’s Hawk-in-Waiting, Philip Giraldi, May 19, 2016. If Hillary wins the White House, expect Victoria Nuland to be at her side. Nuland is one of Hillary Clinton’s protégés at the State Department, and she is also greatly admired by hardline Republicans. This suggests she would be easily approved by Congress as secretary of state or maybe even national-security adviser — which in turn suggests that her foreign-policy views deserve a closer look.

The other day, a question popped up on a Facebook thread I was commenting on: “Where is Victoria Nuland?” The short answer, of course, is that she is still holding down her position as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

But a related question begs for a more expansive response: Where will Victoria Nuland be after January? Nuland is one of Hillary Clinton’s protégés at the State Department, and she is also greatly admired by hardline Republicans. This suggests she would be easily approved by Congress as secretary of state or maybe even national-security adviser — which in turn suggests that her foreign-policy views deserve a closer look.

Nuland comes from what might be called the First Family of Military Interventionists. Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a leading neoconservative who co-founded the Project for the New American Century in 1998 around a demand for “regime change” in Iraq. He is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an author, and a regular contributor to the op-ed pages of a number of national newspapers. He has already declared that he will be voting for Hillary Clinton in November, a shift away from the GOP that many have seen as a clever career-enhancing move for both him and his wife.

Counter-Terrorism

Washington Post, Is the U.S. war against the Islamic State legally justified? Karoun Demirjian, May 18, 2016. After years of discussion, the House is set to vote Wednesday on the continued relevance of a war Barbara Leeauthorization the Obama administration relies on to legally justify the war against the Islamic State.

But the decision to include the amendment to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force in the roster of defense policy bill measures has lawmakers who have long angled for such a vote on edge. The amendment doesn’t require Congress to come up with a new, replacement war authorization to cover current conflicts.

Proposed by Rep. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) (shown in an official photo), the measure would require the repeal of the 2001 AUMF, which Congress passed to allow operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, within 90 days of the defense policy bill’s enactment.

The Hill, Senate passes bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, Jordain Carney, May 17, 2016. The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would allow victims of the 9/11 terror attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, defying vocal opposition from the White House. The upper chamber approved the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act by unanimous consent. White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated Obama's opposition to the bill on Tuesday. “Given the concerns we have expressed, it’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation,” Earnest said.

The bill would allow victims of terror attacks on U.S. soil or surviving family members to bring lawsuits against nation-states for activities supporting terrorism.

Guardian, Saudi officials were 'supporting' 9/11 hijackers, commission member says, Philip Shenon, May 12, 2016. First serious public split revealed among commissioners over the release of the secret ‘28 pages’ that detail Saudi ties to 2001 terrorist attacks. A former Republican member of the 9/11 commission, breaking dramatically with the commission’s leaders, said Wednesday he believes there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the 9/11 hijackers and that the Obama administration should move quickly to declassify a long-secret congressional report on Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack.