Senate to include measure blocking Trump's ZTE deal in defense bill

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According to The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration plans to block any efforts by the Republican-controlled Senate to derail the president's deal with ZTE, a telecom giant that came under fire for violating sanctions and shipping goods illegally to Iran and North Korea.

In a statement to reporters, amendment co-sponsor Sen. The Chinese smartphone and network equipment maker had been caught selling goods and services to North Korea and Iran, violating US sanctions.

ZTE employs 70,000 workers in China and is the fourth-largest vendor of mobile phones in the U.S.

The bipartisan anti-ZTE amendment was co-authored by Republican Tom Cotton, and Democrat Chris Van Hollen.

The vote follows a tumultuous few months for ZTE.

To save his ZTE deal, Trump would have to veto the entire defense-authorization bill, which would go against his long-standing statements on the military and US defense protocols. As a telecoms and smartphone company, ZTE would struggle to make products without using software from Google, processors and radios from Qualcomm, or any of the other parts that the United States primarily supplies. However, the corporation would have to pay $1 billion in penalties, adding another $400 million in escrow in order to cover possible future fines.

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC at the time that ZTE would replace its management team and board and embed a new department for compliance with the U.S.

Late Monday, the bipartisan group of senators announced they had written language into the defense package that keeps the penalties against ZTE in place.

ZTE has more than a dozen senior vice presidents, which is a level below executive vice president, said the company source who declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In February, U.S. intelligence officials warned Americans not to use smartphones made by ZTE or Huawei - another Chinese telecom company - as the communication technology could be compromised "to gain positions of power inside our telecommunication networks that provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure".

The authorization must pass both houses of Congress. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another chief backer of the amendment.

The NDAA is considered a must-pass defense package; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Monday that it is "the top item on our to-do list".