on Friday announced he is withdrawing U.S. support for an international arms-trade treaty, the administration’s latest move to distance the country from global agreements and institutions.
Speaking at a National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Indianapolis, Trump said he would “never” ratify the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty that was signed by former President Obama in 2013.
“Under my administration, we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone,” Trump told the group, which erupted in applause. “We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedoms.”
Trump signed paperwork instructing the Senate to halt the ratification process, held up the document as the crowd cheered “USA, USA,” then tossed his pen into the crowd.
A senior administration official later told reporters that a formal withdrawal letter would be submitted to the U.N. “in the coming days.”
The NRA has long been opposed to the treaty, and Trump told audience members, “I hope you’re happy.”
Trump said he had not told the NRA’s senior leadership he was going to make the announcement during his speech, even though news outlets were told of the decision ahead of time.
“I didn’t even tell ’em about it. So they’re listening in this big room and they’re saying ‘I wonder what he’s going to do?’ The good thing with me: You never know,” the president said.
The treaty is designed to regulate the $70 billion international arms trade and prevent conventional arms being used by terrorists, human traffickers and others. It was submitted to the Senate by the Obama administration in 2016, but was never ratified.
Critics of the treaty, including the NRA and other conservative groups, said it would have infringed on national sovereignty, an argument rejected by the Obama administration.
The Trump administration was also worried the U.S. would be held to an unfair standard because the world’s second- and third-largest arms exporters, Russia and China, are not parties to the treaty. The U.S. is the world’s No. 1 exporter of arms.
“The U.S. already has significant controls in place to regulate our arms transfers. Other countries do not,” the senior administration official said.
Roughly 100 other countries have signed and ratified the treaty and more than two dozen others have signed but not ratified it.
Sen. Bob Menendez
(N.J.), the Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, said the U.S. withdrawal would “turn back the clock on the little progress we have made to prevent illicit arms transfers” and was done only because of “Republicans’ paralyzing fear of backlash from the NRA.”
“The president’s action today is yet another mistaken step that threatens to make the world less safe, rather than more secure,” said Thomas Countryman, a former State Department official who was Obama’s lead negotiator for the treaty. “It is sad, but to be expected, that this president opposes efforts to require other countries to meet the high standards of U.S. military export decisions.”
During his time in the Oval Office, Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. His administration has also taken steps to curtail the influence of the International Criminal Court, a longtime project of White House national security adviser John Bolton
Bolton was among several aides who traveled with Trump to the NRA convention in Indianapolis.
Trump spent the bulk of his speech touting his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, attacking the Russia investigation and hitting Democrats as too extreme.
“They tried for a coup, it didn’t work out so well. And I didn’t need a gun for that one, did I?” Trump said, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller
’s investigators. “Trying for an overthrow and we caught ‘em. We caught ‘em.”
Referring to Democrats who argued the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, Trump said, “Their collusion delusion has been exposed to the world as a complete and total fraud.”
Trump spoke shortly after a federal judge sentenced Russian agent Maria Butina to 18 months in prison in connection to her infiltration of the NRA as part of an effort to set up back channels between Moscow and top Republicans. The NRA has distanced itself from Butina.
—Updated at 1:51 p.m.
Trump tells NRA he’s pulling US from arms treaty