Trump defends ZTE comments

Trump defends ZTE comments
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE on Monday defended his comments supporting Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, saying it is part of ongoing trade negotiations with China and “my personal relationship with President Xi.”

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

Trump caught Washington by surprise on Sunday when he tweeted that he is working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to get ZTE “back into business, fast.”

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“Too many jobs in China lost,” Trump tweeted, adding that he’d directed the Commerce Department to work on assisting ZTE.

The Commerce Department last month banned American companies from selling components to ZTE because the Chinese firm violated U.S. sanctions by selling equipment to Iran. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Huawei says inclusion on US trade blacklist is in 'no one's interest' Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran MORE (R-Fla.) and other lawmakers criticized the president's outreach, arguing he was prioritizing Chinese jobs over American workers and that ZTE represented a national security threat.

The White House faced multiple questions during Monday's press briefing about the president's pledge to assist ZTE.

Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah told reporters that Trump has directed the Commerce Department to look into the matter, which is part of a "complex relationship" between China and the U.S.

"It's an issue of high concern for China that's been raised with the U.S. government and with our administration at various levels," he said.

Shah disputed suggestions that Trump's willingness to help ZTE conflicts with his comments during the 2016 campaign in which he railed against China for taking American jobs.

Trump has often blasted China for its "one-sided" trade practices, but has also insisted that he and Xi have a positive relationship.

“President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade,” Trump said last month as China and the United States exchanged tariff threats.