Schumer, Rubio Seek to Reverse Trump Reversal on ZTE Ban

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer Andrew Harnik/AP

Trump wants to help ZTE as part of a U.S.-China trade deal, but lawmakers say the company’s a national security risk.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is teaming up with Republicans to kill the Trump administration’s attempt to make peace with Chinese tech firm ZTE.

The Commerce Department announced a plan Thursday to reverse a ban on U.S. companies supplying materials to ZTE, which effectively put the Chinese telecom out of business. Hours later, Schumer introduced an amendment to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act that would reverse the reversal.

The amendment, which was also sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., would also bar ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese telecom, from all U.S. government contracts, grants and loans.

The initial U.S. ban was triggered because ZTE repeatedly violated U.S. sanctions on Iran, but U.S. intelligence officials have long expressed concern that ZTE and Huawei could be used as spying tools by the Chinese government.

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act already barred ZTE and Huawei from all government contracts while the Senate bill only applied the ban to defense contracts.

Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act banned the Moscow-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky from government networks on similar hacking concerns. That ban was upheld by a federal district court last month. Kaspersky plans to appeal the ruling.

President Donald Trump sought to reverse the ZTE ban as part of an effort to revise the U.S.-China trade relationship. The Commerce deal required ZTE to pay a $1 billion fine, replace its entire board of directors and to hire a team of coordinators to comply with the terms of the deal.

Other Democratic lawmakers responded negatively to the Trump administration reversal.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the deal’s compliance team insufficient to reduce hacking fears, quipping on Twitter that “Beijing is about to get one heck of a deal on a backdoor into US telecom networks.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the deal “a loser for American security and a loser for American workers” while Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, asked on Twitter: “Is the President so desperate for a deal—any deal—that he is willing to put Chinese jobs ahead of our national security?”