The White House has hesitated to sign a congressional bill that would allow lawsuits against Saudi Arabia over any involvement in the September 11, 2001, attacks, but has warned Saudi Arabia against economic vengeance should the bill pass due to a veto.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also told reporters the White House does not believe the Saudis will sell off their United States assets if the bill passes. “I’m confident that the Saudis recognize, just as much as we do, our shared interest in preserving the stability of the global financial system,” he asserted.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told President Barack Obama personally when he traveled to Washington, D.C., last month that the kingdom will “sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.”
President Obama does not support the bill and will likely veto it if it lands on his desk, Earnest said.
“Given the long list of concerns I have expressed … it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the President would sign the bill as it’s currently drafted,” said Earnest.
President Obama said the lawsuits could endanger Americans overseas and also put the country at risk for other lawsuits.
“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” President Obama told CBS News.
President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia this week and will meet with King Salman.
Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. Some victims and officials do not believe their assertions and want President Obama to declassify 28 pages from the 2002 9/11 Commission Report. They believe the documents will prove some form of Saudi involvement.
John Cornyn (R-TX) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) authored the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. It will “allow victims of terror attacks on U.S. soil to sue the governments of nations that support terrorism.” The senators said the bill is necessary because it will “allow American citizens to recoup damages from countries that have provided financial support to groups like al Qaeda.”
President Obama’s reluctance to release the documents or sign the bill has caused massive backlash from survivors and victims’ families. “It is not acceptable … to succumb to the demands of a foreign government that we abandon principles of American justice while we pursue our diplomatic goals,” they stated in a letter.