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U.S. bans American companies from selling to Chinese phone maker ZTE

Two people walk past a billboard announcing the new ZTE's dual screens foldable smartphone AXON M
The new ZTE's dual screens foldable smartphone AXON M display on a billboard at the Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona. Photo: JOSEP LAGO / AFP / Getty Images

The Commerce Department is barring American companies from selling components to Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE for seven years in retaliation to the company violating terms of a $1.19 billion sanctions settlement, the Department announced Monday

Why it matters: ZTE is a top smartphone seller in the U.S., and the ban will not only be a big hit to the Chinese company, which is reliant on U.S. products and software, but will also affect major U.S. suppliers, like Qualcomm, which will no longer be able to sell chips and other equipment to ZTE.

The backdrop: Last year, ZTE violated their settlement agreement when the company illegally shipped equipment to Iran and North Korea. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that ZTE had also falsified statements during settlement negotiations and lied about the disciplinary actions taken against employees who participated in the scheme.

Timing: The ban comes one day before the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on a proposal seeking to block a major federal program from buying gear or services from companies that “pose a national security threat” to U.S. communications networks. FCC Chair Ajit Pai has issued security concerns over China-based companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

Jonathan Swan 11 hours ago
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Trump asked Netanyahu if he genuinely cares about peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump at the White House in March. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

In a phone call last year with Bibi Netanyahu, President Trump said something that shocked some of the people who helped prepare his briefing materials for the conversations. According to three sources familiar with the call, Trump asked Bibi bluntly if he actually cares about peace or not.

The details: Trump was pressing Bibi on the importance of striking a "deal" for Mideast peace. He'd read news reports about Bibi planning to build additional settlements to please his conservative base in Israel. Trump thought Bibi was unnecessarily angering the Palestinians. So, in the course of a longer conversation that was mostly friendly and complimentary, he bluntly asked Bibi whether or not he genuinely wants peace.

Jonathan Swan 11 hours ago
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Kellyanne Conway rises — again

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has never actually wanted the job of White House communications director, according to sources who've discussed it with her, but Axios has learned that she left many in the White House communications team this week with the impression that she'd be leading the team in some capacity.

Behind the scenes: Senior White House communications official Mercedes Schlapp convened an off-site team-building and planning retreat last week for the White House comms team. They held the session on Thursday at the General Services Administration building a couple blocks from the WH (the same building that once housed the transition).