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President Trump speaks while Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listens. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration's $1 billion penalty deal with Chinese telecom giant ZTE — which has repeatedly violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea and is seen by the Pentagon as a threat to national security — has some in Congress fuming.

Why it matters: President Trump has consistently promised to be a hardliner on China, but several lawmakers from both sides of the aisle argue the administration's willingness to cut a deal with ZTE shows a flagrant disregard of the advice given by Trump's intelligence and defense officials in return for an on-again, off-again pursuit of a trade deal with China.

Be smart: Lawmakers also worry the deal points to a larger concern — that Trump's tough talk on global trade is simply tough talk, and that his true actions show he's easily convinced to back down at the first sign he can cut a deal and tout it as a political win.

What they're saying
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): "I assure you with 100% confidence that #ZTE is a much greater national security threat than steel from Argentina or Europe. #VeryBadDeal"
  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA): "I’m sure ZTE makes a fine cell phone, but they’re a little too close to the Communist Party of China for my tastes."
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY): "@realDonaldTrump should be aiming his trade fire at China, but instead he inexplicably aims it at allies like Canada, Mexico and Europe. When it comes to China, despite his tough talk, this deal with ZTE proves the president just shoots blanks."
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): 'The Trump administration is giving ZTE and China the green light to spy on Americans and sell our technology to North Korea and Iran ... The only question is whether this was the price of Ivanka’s trademarks".
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): "Is the President so desperate for a deal — any deal — that he is willing to put Chinese jobs ahead of our national security".
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA): "[U]nless the Trump Administration plans to open an FBI counter-intel field office inside the company, Beijing is about to get one heck of a deal on a backdoor into US telecom networks."
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): "The Trump #ChinaFirst policy strikes again. Cuts a deal with ZTE to save Chinese jobs and gets nothing for our economy ... He’s tougher on Canada than he is on Chinese currency manipulation".

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

U.S. drone strike victims' families in Afghanistan seek compensation

A relative of Ezmarai Ahmadi, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, looks at the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in the strike in the Kwaja Burga neighbourhood of Kabul on Saturday. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi AFP via Getty Images

Relatives of 10 Afghans killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month said Saturday they want to see punishment and compensation over the deaths.

Driving the news: The relatives said it's "good news" that the U.S. had "officially admitted" that "they had attacked innocents" in the Aug. 29 strike that killed Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group, and nine family members, but they still need "justice," per AFP.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
6 hours ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.