May 15, 2018, 7:17 PM ET

Democratic and GOP senators warn Trump against lifting sanctions on Chinese company ZTE

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Senators on both sides of the aisle are urging President Donald Trump not to go easy on Chinese telecom company ZTE after friendly tweets over the past few days suggested he’s willing to lift sanctions on the firm.

A group of 32 Senate Democrats urged Trump Tuesday to maintain a seven-year ban on ZTE’s purchase of American-made components critical to the company’s production – a penalty put in place after the company sold products to Iran and North Korea and then failed to penalize officials as it had told the U.S. it would.

“America’s national security must not be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations,” the senators wrote in a letter.

But in a series of tweets, Trump suggested exactly that: ZTE’s status with the U.S. is, in fact, part of larger economic talks. Several outlets reported Tuesday that the U.S. is discussing lifting the ZTE penalties to avoid agricultural sanctions China is preparing to impose on the U.S.

Two days ago Trump raised alarms by saying he was explicitly trying to help ZTE get back into business with the U.S.

Later Sunday, however, the White House walked back that directive to the Commerce Department, saying in a statement, “President Trump expects Secretary Ross to exercise his independent judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts.”

In addition to the 32 Senate Democrats who penned the letter, Republicans are also concerned that Trump is giving away too much.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has written a bill banning the U.S. government from contracting with ZTE or another China telecom, Huawei, used Trump’s preferred mode of communication to criticize Trump’s stated interest in easing penalties on ZTE.

Later Tuesday, Rubio went a step farther, delivering an address on the Senate floor criticizing the Trump administration's apparent thaw towards ZTE. He said lifting ZTE penalties in exchange for China lifting agricultural sanctions would give the impression that farmers in the U.S. had done something wrong.

He also pointed a finger at someone in the Trump administration who is giving the president bad advice.

"I know that's not where his instincts are," Rubio said, referring to Trump. "But someone's getting to him, I don't know if it's from Treasury or where it is, and basically telling him that now's the time to cut a deal. It's the wrong time to cut a deal, and this would be a terrible deal."

Earlier this month, the Pentagon banned the two Chinese firms from selling products in retail stores on military bases, over fears that they might be using devices to steal U.S. intelligence and intellectual property.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wondered on Twitter Tuesday whether there was a connection between a Trump Organization project in Indonesia, which is anticipating a $500 million loan from the Chinese government, and Trump’s new warmth towards ZTE.

In an interview with ABC, Wyden stressed that the link between the ZTE softening and the Trump Organization deal was only “possible.” Despite concern from both sides of the aisle about possible concessions to ZTE, the issue did not come up during Trump’s meeting with Senate Republicans on Tuesday.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he does want to get more information from the White House about the potential arrangement.

“I'm concerned about that. I'm glad that China's helping us but allowing them to have sort of an entree in our technological world like this bothers me,” Graham said.

News - Democratic and GOP senators warn Trump against lifting sanctions on Chinese company ZTE

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  • brian nrndss

    pls correct me if i'm wrong, but after T humiliated Rubio in Fl. did he not say he was getting out of politics?............needed his wife to save his career.............and he is the one that started the name calling............yes he later apologized

  • mrphilbert

    It's not who's getting to him, it's what is getting to him. All that money being shoveled into his pockets is all that he needs to decide one way or the other. Nothing else matters. If the g.o.p. does not understand that by now, they are even dumber than we think.

  • Paul Iannello

    Alright ..Jeopardy...the categories are: farmers in flyover states.....hotel in Indonesia....ZTE go or no......foreign policy fopas....trump administration=clueless or crooks?

  • Sonora Nomad

    Holy sweet Jeebus, Jethro, from ...."On day one I will label China as a currency manipulator" and "China is raping us, stealing our jobs" ...to... "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!"

    I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow...in the meantime, I gotta buy another bottle of scotch, maybe two. Good lord, I hope my liver outlasts the Trump Admin. Have a nice day......

  • Forward forward

    Can't back out now. Trump already has the $500 Million in Chinese money approved for his Indonesia project. Can't have the pro quo without the quid. Or is it the other way around?

  • Nate

    For all his campaign bluster, Trump is weak on China.

  • Karolyn Lapka

    Blah, blah. These Senators have shown over and over again that they aren't going to stand up to trump or curtail his BS. Nothing ever happens after the TV sound bite!

  • Rubber Banned

    I knew I would find a personal financial incentive to motivate Trump, and I did. Everything he does is calculated for his own personal gain, and ethical, legal, or moral considerations are irrelevant.

  • Jim Enright

    Stunning how quiet it is here. Where are the usual Trump pumpers?

  • GorillaMyDreams

    "Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wondered on Twitter Tuesday whether there was a connection between a Trump Organization project in Indonesia, which is anticipating a $500 million loan from the Chinese government, and
    Trump’s new warmth towards ZTE."

    Gee, ya think?!?

  • mrphilbert

    U.S. security
    U.S. jobs
    U.S. rule of law
    U.S. constitution
    These are things that take a back seat to drumpfs lining his pockets. Then again, everything takes a back seat to drumpf lining his own pockets.

  • Fo Gordon

    What are those spineless greedy nothings going to do about this president who is blatantly conducting pay to play shady business deals! We put these lackey's into office, we should remove a lot of them. Democrat & republican!!

  • BurmeseDude

    What national security? China is writing half a billion check that will directly/indirectly benefit my business and my income. That's worth risking America's national security in my book. O, did you really think I care about America in general?

    Hey, I dodged Vietnam war many times and I mocked a Vietnam war hero and yet, I was still voted in as president. Do you think this kind of America really deserves security?

    Sincerely,
    Trump, the unfit president.

  • tet1953

    With or without the involvement of ZTE, the Chinese loan to the Trump org is an emolument.

  • 40acre

    -----This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.-----

    I guess China must have invested in one or more Trump projects.

  • TMahoney

    I first saw info about the Trump loan yesterday on Huffington Post, thought I would give it a day to see if other news outlets picked it up. It was mentioned here, but only buried in the context of the rest of the story. Attention needs to be amplified and our concerns voiced in whatever venue we can muster. I have called the offices of elected officials here in Texas and I hope you will do the same.

  • Ira Cohen

    I have to believe there's more to Trump's concession beyond saving Chinese jobs. Strikes me the Chinese have a few weapons up their sleeve and Trump was told that they could be effective. This sanction/trade war game is never simple nor is it a guaranteed win for either side,

  • robert

    The North Koreans and jina are laughing at this old fool we have for President. He can be bought.

  • WhosVoice

    Another Trump campaign promise kept. He ran as a jobs creator! This would do just that.
    #MAGA

  • pbgd

    I always keep reading that this is supposed to be a 'country of laws'. Are there no laws that govern such issues? Can a President just override US law?

  • JuPMod

    'America first'? Trump's suggestion here shows he only cares for his own business interest, not for the well being of America. Those who voted for Trump have been fooled. Is these really making America great? No, it only benefits China.

  • Bud Simpson

    Warn him???? He's already directed the Commerce Dept. to assist in lifting the sanctions against China. The GOP is so good about warning Trump after he's already done it, as if they'd actually do something. The swamp is deep in Congress and the White House.

  • Forward forward

    Trump's new boss (Xi), same as his old boss (Putin). Past presidents worked for the American people, not foreign governments that funnel money to the president's personal business interests.

  • Forward forward

    The fact that Mr Trump traded pushing for a US bailout of a Chinese cellphone company in exchange for $500 Million in Chinese money for the Trump Indonesian project should warrant its own Special Prosecutor.

  • CantStoptheSignal

    Congressional Republicans are going to ignore this just like all of Trump's other illegal acts...

  • Prophet With Honor

    On the one hand I like the idea that some of our companies are making a profit selling to a Chinese company. On the other ... well, maybe there isn't an other...

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    This is some of the most corruption I've ever seen. It's hard to believe we've let America sink so low to elect someone like this.

  • Amateur_Critic

    If Trump reverses the sanctions on ZTE, let's see if China grants him more trademarks. Everything is quid pro quo with that guy, and the "quo" is Trump.

  • kritikosman

    USA USA......, oops--ZTE! ZTE! ZTE!

  • mollydtt

    Trump wants his $500,000,000 loan from China.

  • THEFred

    The "billionaire" who "could not be bought" is the most corrupt politician in history!

    No wonder he keeps all his tax returns and financial records secret and keeps desperately trying to obstruct justice. The truth is traitor Trump's worst enemy.

  • Thao D

    Mr.trump has betray America.Communist china is real enemy for America. They want to control the world by one belt and road.Communist china will block the sea in the south china sea.Communist china want to challenge America for economic and military

  • Gracie

    Trump is corrupt and dishonest. He has been that way throughout his business life. The man has been sued 3500 times. That doesn't happen unless you are doing shady and illegal stuff. He is not gonna change now that he is POTUS, and that has been proven over and over to be true.

  • IT-Worker-Since-1990

    I wonder how much stock in ZTE the Trump Organization was offered to get that ban lifted......

  • Debra

    Well yeah, but then Trumpy wouldn't make any money. They promised to give him cash for his casino in return, so...... But I thought Trump hated "pay for play" when he was a candidate. And, he wasn't too fond of China either. That's what he told his supporters at his rallies anyway.