Trump Administration Plans to Revive ZTE, Prompting Backlash

Trump Administration Plans to Revive ZTE, Prompting Backlash

Such an agreement is likely to face fierce resistance on Capitol Hill. Top lawmakers, including Mr. Schumer and Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, have urged the administration not to bend on ZTE, which they consider a law enforcement and national security issue.

“ZTE presents a national security threat to the United States — and nothing in this reported deal addresses that fundamental fact,” Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement. “If President Trump won’t put our security before Chinese jobs, Congress will act on a bipartisan basis to stop him.”

Lawmakers, including Mr. Van Hollen, have rolled out a variety of measures aimed at clipping the administration’s authority to ease penalties on ZTE and have publicly criticized the administration’s consideration of a deal.

On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would prevent the administration from easing restrictions on ZTE, and on Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee approved a similar amendment that would prevent the president from modifying penalties on Chinese telecom companies that had violated American law in the past year. A group of 27 bipartisan senators also sent administration officials a letter last week warning them not to “compromise lawful U.S. enforcement actions against serial and premeditated violators of U.S. law, such as ZTE.”

“Yes they have a deal in mind,” Mr. Rubio said in a tweet on Friday. “It is a great deal… for #ZTE & China.”

“Now congress will need to act,” he added.

The telecom company’s fate has consumed top administration officials, who have tried to defuse lawmakers’ concerns about a deal while responding to Mr. Trump’s entreaties to “get it done.” On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Ross and Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of treasury, traveled to Capitol Hill to brief a group of Senate Republicans, including Mr. Rubio, John Cornyn of Texas and Bob Corker of Tennessee, on their plans for ZTE. Mr. Ross and Mr. Mnuchin sought to assure the lawmakers that they were planning on harsh penalties for ZTE, and appealed to Republicans to dampen their public criticism so a deal could be reached, a person briefed on the discussions said.

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