Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is amping up his outrage over President Donald Trump‘s desire to prop up the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE which also is suspected of running espionage in America.
Rubio railed against the administration’s intentions to lift sanctions against ZTE during a FOX News interview Tuesday night and then unleashed a Twitter storm late Tuesday and then Wednesday going even further.
“Those in the administration pushing for deal with #ZTE have access to same classified info we do about the national security danger posed by #ZTE & #China telecomm. I don’t understand how they can push for a deal that lets them keep operating in U.S.,” read one Rubio tweet Wednesday morning.
For weeks now Rubio has been pushing back against the administration’s proposals with China and that reached a head Tuesday when news emerged, via a Wall Street Journal story, that the administration and China have reached the broad outlines of a day: ZTE would pay a $1.3 trillion fine, fire some top people, and agree to buy cell phone parts from American companies.
“A $1.3billion fine & forcing them to buy more semi-conductors is how administration plans to punish ZTE? $1.3 billion is nothing for company backed by #China govt. And buying more semi-conductors isn’t a punishment, it is a reward. #DoNotCave,” Rubio tweeted Wednesday morning.
Trump later Tuesday denied a deal was complete, but confirmed some of the details of the deal he’s seeking.
Earlier Trump had banned American companies from selling parts to ZTE because the company violated U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran, and ZTE announced the ban was threatening to put it out of business. Trump pursued talks to save ZTE, as part of broader trade talks with China.
Rubio has expressed incredulity. On FOX News Tuesday night, he declared there should be no connection between trade talks and ZTE.
“Trade and ZTE are two separate issues. They shouldn’t be mixed. We have a huge trade problem with China. It’s structural, it’s not just how much they buy from us, it’s what they do to our companies. They force our companies to turn over intellectual property, secrets. You can’t do business in China unless you do that, if you can do it at all. Meanwhile their companies can do whatever they want here. That’s what has to be fixed because that’s long term and it’s problematic,” Rubio started.
“ZTE is a cell phone and technology company. They got caught violating the Iran sanctions and North Korea. And they got hit with a billion dollar fine and they were told they had to fire the employees who did that. You know what they did? They didn’t do it. They lied. They didn’t fire those employees, they gave them a bonus and they tried to cover that up as well like they tried to cover up the violation,” he continued.
“So now we hit them, and said ‘fine, you can’t buy our semiconductors anymore’ and that put them out of business. And that’s a good move. That’s what we need to be doing when people are violating these things. But now it appears as though some are saying, ‘well, let’s fine them again and let’s make them change the board of directors.’ That’s the same deal they broke already once. Meanwhile, all these phone companies, they have to report to the Chinese government,” he added. “You use those phones, and they can steal those secrets, they can spy on us, they even have subcontractors in ZTE that work for but people right now could be using ZTE and Huawei technology and not even know it because it says AT&T or something on it. But it’s theirs.”