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Sen. Mark Warner says Trump's ZTE deal is a mistake

The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee says ZTE and other Chinese tech companies "pose a national security risk."

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Senator Mark Warner of Virginia warns that Chinese tech companies like ZTE should not be trusted.
Pete Marovich / Getty Images

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said President Donald Trump should keep Chinese telecom gear maker ZTE out of negotiations on trade with the Chinese government.

Speaking at the Recode's Code Conference on Wednesday, the top Democrat on the Senate's intelligence committee criticized the Trump administration's tentative deal to ease sanctions with the Chinese tech company.  

"If we have all the Obama administration people, and the Trump administration people, saying ZTE and Huawei pose a national security risk, we ought to listen to them," he said.

Warner added that Trump should not use the situation with ZTE as a bargaining chip to negotiate trade with the Chinese government.

Six weeks ago, the US Commerce Department banned ZTE, the fourth-largest smartphone maker in the US, from buying crucial parts from American companies after it was determined that the company violated terms of a 2017 deal in which it admitted it had violated sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The ban forced ZTE to shut down its "major operating activities."

But earlier this month, Trump made ZTE a critical part of a broader discussions regarding an impending trade war between China and the US, the two largest economies in the world. Trump said in a surprise tweet that he wanted to help ZTE find "a way to get back into business, fast."

Last week, the Trump administration reportedly struck a tentative deal with the company by imposing alternative punishments. But several members of Congress, including Warner, have pushed back.

Warner has said allowing ZTE to skirt sanctions without consequence is dangerous to national security. During the Code Conference, he said that Chinese tech companies, such as Alibaba and ZTE "are deeply penetrated by the Chinese government," and that US officials should heed warnings from the intelligence community when dealing with them.

Warner is not alone in his wariness of lifting sanctions on the company. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an amendment to a bill that would uphold sanctions against ZTE, rejecting Trump's defense of the embattled Chinese phone maker. 

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