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Obama to Veto Bill Allowing Lawsuits Against Saudi Arabia
Obama to Veto Bill Allowing Lawsuits Against Saudi Government
President Obama plans to veto a bill approved by Congress that would allow surviving victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, a White House spokesman said.
The bill could create a windfall of legal fees for Washington law firms but risks inciting a huge international incident.
The vote to send the bill to the president coincided with the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Unlike domestic lawsuits that are the discretion of attorneys and local courts, legal action against foreign governments requires permission from the U.S. State Department.
Courts could then seize the foreigners assets in the United States to satisfy any judgments.
The Saudi government and its citizens hold about $750 billion worth of U.S. property and other assets. They are threatening to sell the assets and pull all their investments out of the United States if Obama approves the legislation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan brushed off the risk of an international incident by saying the bill passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. Senate, which meant the concerns about a backlash were taken under consideration and congressmen acted appropriately.
The Senate passed its version of the bill for suing the Saudis in May 2016. The House gave final approval by voice vote in September 2016.
The government investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks left 28 pages of documents classified as secret until recent weeks. The newly declassified documents describe suspicious contacts between the hijackers and Saudi government officials.
The documents also speculate on contacts between the Saudi royal family and the terrorist group al Qaeda.
Nevertheless, Obama administration officials are more concerned about alienating a key ally in a politically sensitive area of the world.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest summed up Obama’s opinion of the congressional bill when he said the legislation could change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity. In addition, he said the President of the United States harbors serious concerns that the legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world.