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President Trump reverses position on ZTE ban despite security warnings, House committee rebukes

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously accepted an amendment to an appropriations bill on Thursday that reinforces sanctions against Chinese telecommunications company ZTE days after the president appeared to be working to lift sanctions.

“This amendment would prevent the Commerce Department from renegotiation of the sanctions it just enacted last month on ZTE,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who authored the amendment to the 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill, according to the Hill

The Trump administration earlier this week said it is working to lift sanctions on the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE despite top intelligence officials' warnings that the company poses a security risk to the U.S.

In 2016, the company was suspected of espionage after researchers discovered backdoors in the phone that could allow the monitoring of user behavior.

Last month Trump administration banned the company, which makes Android Smartphones, from using US technology, after it sold hardware incorporating American technology to Iran and North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions.

ZTE agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine in March but soon after Commerce Department officials discovered it had rewarded rather than punished the company officials responsible for the violations and subsequently implemented a “denial order” prohibiting U.S. companies from selling their goods to ZTE for seven years.

The actions effectively crippled the firm yet on Sunday, President Trump tweeted that he and Chinese President Xi are working to give ZTE a way to get back into business fast since too many Chinese jobs have been lost.

On Monday, President Trump doubled down on his comments suggesting the move was part of a broader trade negotiation.

"ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies,” he tweeted. “This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi."

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry said Tuesday that ZTE Corp.'s ability to tap the U.S. market isn't likely to apply to government agencies and that the company ban is likely to stay in the defense authorization measure The House is scheduled to take up next week.

“I confess I don't fully understand the administration's take on this at this point,” Thornberry said at Bloomberg Government event. “It is not a question to me of economics, it is a question of security.”

On Wednesday Trump again tweeted again addressing various media outlets and his stance on ZTE.

"Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal," the president tweeted. "Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year with China..."

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