White House warns Congress against trying to block ZTE deal

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The White House on Wednesday pushed back on legislative efforts to reverse ‘s deal with China that eases penalties on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, helping to revive the company.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley defended the administration’s agreement to impose lessened penalties on the company, maintaining that the punishment was “massive” and “historic.”

“This will ensure ZTE pays for its violations and gives our government complete oversight of their future activity without undue harm to American suppliers and their workers,” Gidley said in a statement.

“The Administration will work with Congress to ensure the final NDAA conference report respects the separation of powers,” he added.

Last month, Trump made a deal to reduce the Department of Commerce’s penalties leveled at ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The penalties, which barred ZTE from purchasing U.S. made equipment, had effectively shut the company down.

However, lawmakers are attempting to use the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to stop Trump’s deal.

A group of lawmakers including Sens. (R-Ark.), (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader (D-N.Y.) inserted an amendment into the proposed NDAA that would reverse Trump’s deal to revive ZTE.

The Senate is expected to pass the NDAA as soon as this week.

Since Trump announced his intention to ease penalties against ZTE, a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers have spoken out against the president’s plans.

They argue that ZTE is a threat to national security because its technology gives the Chinese government backdoor access to spy on the U.S. through ZTE phones.

Accordingly, Congress has taken other action to keep ZTE and other Chinese manufacturers out of the U.S. by pressuring AT&T to scrap a deal with to sell Chinese phones in the U.S. Lawmakers have also put forth legislation that would prevent the government from obtaining contracts with ZTE and its larger Chinese phone competitor, Huawei.