In a statement Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley defended the Trump administration deal and bridled at congressional interference with it in the National Defence Authorization Act, known as NDAA.
“The massive penalties imposed on ZTE are part of an historic enforcement action taken by the Department of Commerce. 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. “The administration will work with Congress to ensure the final NDAA conference report respects the separation of powers.”
The House version of the defence bill, which has already passed, included a less far-reaching provision that would prevent the government from purchasing ZTE products – but it wouldn’t reimpose the sanctions-related restrictions lifted under Trump’s deal. The House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled in a so-called “conference committee” which will give the White House an opportunity to influence the final outcome.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the administration was comfortable with the House language on ZTE but would seek to jettison the Senate language during the conference committee process.
“We have not done an adequate job of explaining the sanctions that are being imposed on ZTE. As we do that we are confident that we’ll secure a good outcome in conference,” Short said.
Rubio, one of the Republican sponsors of the Senate provision, showed no sign of backing down.
“This is not just about sanctions violations,” Rubio told reporters Wednesday. “ZTE poses a significant national security threat to US telecommunications, and we shouldn’t be doing anything that allows them to stay in business here or around the world.”