WASHINGTON – During a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today to consider the nomination of Bill Evanina to serve as the nation’s top counterintelligence official, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), the Committee’s Vice Chairman, voiced concern that rolling back trade restrictions on Chinese telecom company ZTE would pose significant national security risks to the United States.
In recent days, President Trump has publicity expressed his desire to reverse trade restrictions placed on the company for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
“On the question of counterintelligence with China, a number of members of this committee have raised concerns about certain Chinese telecom companies and their penetration into the American market. I was actually pleased that the President acted on one of those companies, ZTE. Now it appears that that is simply a bargaining chip in negotiations with China. I don’t think that is the appropriate way,” said Sen. Warner during the nomination hearing.
“If this is a security threat, then it is a security threat and needs to be dealt with as such — not as a bargaining chip in greater trade negotiations,” added Sen. Warner.
On Sunday, May 13 Trump tweeted, “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” The next day, Trump followed with another tweet: “ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.”
Earlier today, Sen. Warner joined a group of 34 Senators urging President Trump not to reverse trade restrictions on ZTE.