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White House warns Congress against trying to block ZTE deal

White House warns Congress against trying to block ZTE deal
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The White House on Wednesday pushed back on legislative efforts to reverse President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE’s deal with China that eases penalties on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, helping to revive the company.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley defended the administration's agreement to impose lessened penalties on the company, maintaining that the punishment was "massive" and "historic."

“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 in a statement.

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“The Administration will work with Congress to ensure the final [National Defense Authorization Act] conference report respects the separation of powers," he added.

Last month, Trump made a deal to reduce the Department of Commerce’s penalties leveled at ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The penalties, which barred ZTE from purchasing U.S. made equipment, had effectively shut the company down.

However, lawmakers are attempting to use the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to stop Trump’s deal.

A group of lawmakers including Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection MORE (R-Ark.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) inserted an amendment into the proposed NDAA that would reverse Trump’s deal to revive ZTE.

The Senate is expected to pass the NDAA as soon as this week.

Since Trump announced his intention to ease penalties against ZTE, a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers have spoken out against the president's plans.

They argue that ZTE is a threat to national security because its technology gives the Chinese government backdoor access to spy on the U.S. through ZTE phones.

Accordingly, Congress has taken other action to keep ZTE and other Chinese manufacturers out of the U.S. by pressuring AT&T to scrap a deal to sell Chinese phones in the U.S. Lawmakers have also put forth legislation that would prevent the government from obtaining contracts with ZTE and its larger Chinese phone competitor, Huawei.