9/11 Families in Court against Saudi Officials
Relatives of the almost 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, are moving forward with their mega-suit against Saudi Arabia over its alleged ties to the terror attacks. A new law passed by Congress over President Obama's veto allows the legal challenge after years of delay.
For more than 14 years, relatives of the nearly 3,000 people who died Sept. 11, 2001, battled Washington and several federal judges for the right to sue Saudi Arabia and the royal family in Riyadh - suspected by families and senior members of Congress of providing money and other support to the 19 attackers.
District and appellate courts in New York ruled - repeatedly - that a legal protection called "sovereign immunity" prevented the families from suing Saudi Arabia.
But the 9/11 families' fortunes changed in September, when during a distracting, raucous 2016 presidential campaign, Congress delivered the only veto override of Obama's eight-year tenure and made the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, settled law.
Now, the families are heading to court in the coming weeks, seeking a punitive payout that legal experts say could exceed $1 trillion.
But Saudi Arabia is not done fighting - in court or in Congress. Indeed, Riyadh looks ready to pump unprecedented sums into a lobbying effort to unwind the new law.
The Saudis have hired a team of Washington powerbrokers who have held senior White House and congressional posts going back decades, paying at least 17 firms in Washington, Houston, Cleveland, Denver and Alexandria, Virginia, more than $1 million a month to try to turn back the clock.
Tony Podesta, one of Washington's top lobbyists and the brother of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager John Podesta, is among the top figures on the team of influential insiders.
"This is one of the biggest lobbying efforts in the history of our country," James Kreindler, lead attorney for the 9/11 families, told McClatchy.
This time, though, the families can boast of an advantage they've never had before - a president who supports their right to sue. President Donald Trump, a native New Yorker, vowed on the campaign trail to do everything he could to help the families, and those families believe he will stand by them even if Saudi money succeeds in turning Congress against a law it just passed.
In the nearly five months since JASTA became law, the families' attorneys have been preparing to go back into court. They are tweaking previously filed documents and readying new ones with more recent information related to their claim, starting with details from the 28 pages.
They would also like to obtain an un-redacted version of that section of the 2003 congressional intelligence report's section focusing on possible Saudi ties to 9/11.
Last month, the Saudi lobbyists brought 20 to 40 veterans for three days of pressuring lawmakers to weaken JASTA, putting them up at Trump's new luxury hotel in downtown Washington, according to Politico.
To counter the Saudis' lobbying blitz, the families had assembled their own power team.
Some of the most prominent plaintiffs' law firms are representing them, including Kreindler & Kreindler of New York, Motley Rice of South Carolina, and Ethridge Quinn of Maryland.
The law firms are working pro bono. Having already donated tens of millions of dollars to the cause, they hope to recoup payment via a large settlement with the Saudi government.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team