Trump reversal on Huawei gets bipartisan pushback

Trump reversal on Huawei gets bipartisan pushback
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Collins breaks with GOP on attempt to change impeachment rules resolution Roberts admonishes House managers, Trump lawyers after heated exchange MORE’s decision to lift the ban on U.S. companies selling products to Chinese telecommunications company Huawei is sparking pushback from lawmakers worried about the potential national security implications.

Trump at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit decided to ease his ban on the firm, announcing that “U.S. companies can sell their equipment to Huawei." He tried to allay any concerns, noting that "we're talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it.”

The concession came as Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to restart trade talks after a face-to-face meeting, with Trump also saying that China would resume purchases of American farm products.

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The announcement brought a sharp reaction from Capitol Hill.

“Huawei is one of few potent levers we have to make China play fair on trade," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial Feds seek 25-year sentence for Coast Guard officer accused of targeting lawmakers, justices Clinton: McConnell's rules like 'head juror colluding with the defendant to cover up a crime' MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "If President Trump backs off, as it appears he is doing, it will dramatically undercut our ability to change China’s unfair trade practices.”

Trump's announcement was a stark reversal from his previous policies toward Huawei.

The Commerce Department added Huawei to its “entity list” in May, a move often seen as a death sentence for foreign companies. U.S. companies are banned from doing business with those on the list.

But in the case of Huawei, the Commerce Department issued a 90-day extension for implementing the ban in order to give companies time to adjust. That extension is now halfway completed, with Huawei set to be added in mid-August.

Trump said in Japan that Huawei would not be taken off the entity list but added that “we are going to be supplying equipment from our companies.” 

Trump also signed an executive order in May that banned telecommunications companies deemed a national security threat from doing business in the U.S.

Security issues posed by Huawei, which is considered by many to be under some degree of control by the Chinese government, were summed up by a report put out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) earlier this year, which touched on the risks from Huawei to the development of fifth generation (5G) networks. 

“Chinese companies are not only subsidised by the Chinese government but also legally compelled to work with its intelligence services,” the CCDCOE wrote. “Whether the risk of such collaboration is real or perceived, the fear remains that adopting 5G technology from Huawei would introduce a reliance on equipment which can be controlled by the Chinese intelligence services and the military in both peacetime and crisis.”

Huawei has stayed quiet after Trump's announcement, with many details still unclear.

A spokesperson for Huawei told The Hill on Monday that “we acknowledge President Trump’s comments related to Huawei over the weekend and have nothing further to add at this time.”

But Trump's decision has led lawmakers to voice bipartisan worries about the company and national security.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP rep introduces bill to block intelligence sharing with countries using Huawei for 5G Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash Cotton introduces bill blocking intel sharing with countries relying on Huawei for 5G MORE (R-Ark.) tweeted on Saturday that “Huawei is not only an arm of the Chinese Communist Party, but also a close partner of the People’s Liberation Army."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa What to watch for as Senate organizes impeachment on day one MORE (R-S.C.) said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that “there will be a lot of pushback” from both sides of the aisle if Huawei is used as a concession in trade talks. 

Graham’s committee held a hearing in May around the rollout of 5G, following which Graham told reporters that “until China stops being a communist dictatorship, we are not going to support working with a country that uses their technology.”

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Hillicon Valley: Apple, Barr clash over Pensacola shooter's phone | Senate bill would boost Huawei alternatives | DHS orders agencies to fix Microsoft vulnerability | Chrome to phase out tracking cookies Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill last week that allowing U.S. companies to again do business with Huawei "would be a disaster.”

Warner added “we put the whole credibility of the American intelligence community trying to convince our allies about this national security threat. You know, I hope the President is able to get a trade deal, but that should not interfere or undermine our national security."

Warner’s comments were a reference to the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to convince foreign allies to ban Huawei technologies from being used in their 5G networks. 

According to Reuters, the United Kingdom in April decided to allow Huawei technologies in “non-core” 5G networks, though no official announcement has been made. The governments of France, Germany, and Belgium have also been involved in discussions around this topic.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioApple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Surging Sanders draws fresh scrutiny ahead of debate MORE (R-Fla.), meanwhile, vowed to pass legislation to put Huawei back on the entity list if President Trump decides to remove it, tweeting that the bill “will pass with a large veto proof majority.”

Warner and Rubio teamed up last month in sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid End impeachment's government shutdown The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE to express their “deep concerns” over Trump potentially rolling back the blacklisting of Huawei in the pursuit of a trade deal with China.

“Despite the best efforts of our government to convince other countries to keep Huawei components out of their 5G infrastructure, our message is being undermined by concerns that we are not sincere,” Warner and Rubio wrote. 

Larry KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan KudlowMORE, the top White House economic advisor, tried to lessen the fears of Congress over President Trump’s announcement.

"We understand the huge risks regarding Huawei," Kudlow said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation.

“Anything to do with national security concerns will not receive a new license from the Commerce Department,” Kudlow said. “I think that’s very important. I think people have to understand that.”

Some experts outside the government are urging Congress not to rush to action.

A senior official with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, an independent think tank, said that congressional action around Huawei should be stalled until the full results of the China trade negotiations are revealed.

ITIF President Robert Atkinson said there was pressure on the administration to decouple the U.S. and China, In effect break ties between businesses in the two economies.

“The only way to slow China down, the decouplers argue, is to decouple: impose harm on Chinese tech companies with tariffs, export bans and other tools, while pressuring U.S. and other companies to withdraw production from China,” Atkinson said in a statement.

“If China proves unwilling to stop its predatory and unfair practices, maybe it will have to come to decoupling. But jumping to that conclusion before seeing if President Trump’s trade negotiations can work is premature,” he cautioned.

Mark Linscott, a senior fellow with The Atlantic Council and the former U.S. trade representative for South and Central Asian Affairs, described Trump’s announcement in a post by the Atlantic Council this weekend as “fairly predictable” and an effort to create "more space for negotiation.”

But it is unclear if Huawei's critics are willing to give Trump that room.

In an op-ed for The Hill last month, former House Intelligence Chairman Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets 5G group beefs up lobby team House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena MORE (R-Mich.) cautioned against Huawei being used as a “football” to throw around in trade negotiations.

“Huawei is a security national threat, full stop, and it needs to be treated as such,” Rogers wrote.