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Schumer Floor Remarks Announcing Effort To Block The Deal Reached With ZTE, The Defense Bill, And The Need For The President To Abide By The Law

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding efforts to block the deal reached with ZTE, the defense bill, and the need for the president to abide by the law.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

On my colleague from North Carolina on if I agree with what he said, I definitely do.  I think that Erdogan is doing very bad things to the Turkish people, to the NATO alliance, and to the Middle East. He’s had a vehemently anti-Israel position, and to allow him to get away with all this stuff without putting maximum pressure makes no sense. So, I thank my colleague from North Carolina.

Now, on other subjects. Later today, the Senate will move to the consideration of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. The annual defense authorization bill is something our friend Senator McCain cared dearly about, talked to me about it regularly, and we wish he were here to shepherd it on the floor, as we’ve seen him do many times before. It’s important we get this done for our military and broader national security, for Senator McCain, and to ensure this critical authorization bill moves forward on a steady track, and every time we say the name or see the name written, John S. McCain, our hearts go pitter-patter a little bit as we pray for his speedy recovery.

The NDAA is an opportunity to revise and improve our national security to meet the evolving threats of a world that is changing so very, very fast. I just want to highlight a few provisions in the bill that are important.

Just this morning, Secretary Ross announced that the Trump administration will relax penalties on Chinese telecom giant ZTE. Instead of permanently crippling ZTE, the administration will settle for a smaller fine than the company paid in 2017 and a reorganization of the company’s board. It’s essentially a slap on the wrist.

As a reminder, ZTE has been a threat to our national security, and that was stated by the Republican-led FCC, Republican-led FBI, Republican-led Pentagon. This is not a partisan issue. ZTE was guilty not only of evading US sanctions but lying to US officials about it afterwards. ZTE has been deemed such a threat to our telecommunications network that the FCC recommended forbidding the sale of any ZTE products in the United States, but inexplicably President Trump after talking tough did a total reversal.

Once again, it seems President Xi has outfoxed President Trump. There is absolutely no good reason that ZTE should get a second chance, but with this deal, the president has inexplicably thrown them a lifeline. President Xi must be laughing all the way to the Forbidden Palace. He has once again taken advantage of President Trump on an issue vital to our security. Many believe ZTE could be a mechanism for spying on our military and lots of different economic parts of the United States. China has shown no reluctance to do that in the past, and we’re just rolling over for no reason and have gotten nothing in return.

This is a serious mistake, and a 180 degree turn away from the president’s promise to be tough on China. President Trump should be aiming his trade fire at China, but he inexplicably aims it at allies like Canada and Europe. When it comes to China, despite his tough talk, this deal with ZTE proves that President Trump just shoots blanks. “The Art of the Deal”? He’s gotten taken to the cleaners by President Xi, and the rest of the world is probably laughing at him, but we cannot allow the damage of this action by Secretary Ross to stay. We must undo it. It’s up to Congress now to act to reverse this deal if the president goes with it, which he announced this morning he will.

The Banking Committee already adopted an amendment that would prohibit the administration from weakening sanctions against Chinese telecoms, including ZTE.

However, the president has rushed to undo the sanctions before that bill could pass so it won’t affect ZTE because the sanctions have just been lifted by the administration. Now that the president has rushed to give this company relief, we will offer a bipartisan amendment, led by Senators Cotton and Van Hollen, that retroactively imposes the sanctions originally levied against ZTE, reversing the consent agreement signed this morning. This is a bipartisan bill. Senator Cotton and Senator Van Hollen don’t agree on much, but thank God when it comes to national security, they’re agreeing. This chamber should overwhelmingly vote for the Cotton-Van Hollen amendment, which I’m proud to cosponsor, as I believe Senator Cornyn and others on the other side will do. We must do that. We hope that Leader McConnell will allow a vote, or at minimum put it in the manager’s package. We cannot move forward with this danger to national security without doing something about ZTE.

There is also a provision in the defense bill to expand the jurisdiction of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, so that the board can review minority-position investments and joint ventures in critical technology and infrastructure companies.

Too often, foreign companies, usually Chinese, backed by some hostile foreign governments – usually the Chinese government, and they’re hostile to us economically, make no mistake about it that word is not too strong – they try to gain controlling or minority positions in critical American technology companies to pilfer their intellectual property and reproduce it in their own countries. They don’t allow us to sell the goods. They instead buy minority interest in American companies, learn how to do it, produce it in China, and then undercut us and sell it here. No wonder we lose millions of jobs to China. This must be stopped. Because those foreign companies go to great lengths to avoid a CFIUS review and sneak in under the radar, we ought to widen the scope of cases that CFIUS could look at, better protecting our national security and our economic security. The defense bill – fortunately – is the first opportunity to do that.

Now, back to ZTE, Madam President. The ZTE example is perhaps the best example of how this administration’s trade policies are in shambles. The president has talked tough on China. President Trump and I agree very strongly – or we had agreed, I don’t know where he is now, but in the past we agreed, we just had a conversation a few weeks ago –  about the need to combat China’s rapacious trade practices. Initially, I was hopeful that the president would follow through. He seemed to do this out of conviction. But it seems that even though President Trump roars like a lion on China, he behaves like a lamb. Instead of ramping up the pressure on China, he tells them he’s weak, he tells them he’ll back off., he tells them he’s not for real, and he has directed far too much – President Trump has directed far too much of the administration’s energies on trade toward punishing our allies, like Canada and Europe, instead of focusing on the real menace, the number one menace: China.

So, if President Trump is listening this morning, I’d tell him: be strong on China. Don’t trade away our leverage for anything short of real concessions on intellectual property theft and market access, the two things that most threaten our long-term economic standing, that most threaten the American economy, the American worker, and American jobs.

Now, on another matter. Today, the U.S. District Court of DC will hear oral arguments in a case concerning the potential violation of the Emoluments Clause by the president of the United States – none other than the president of the United States violating this clause. The emoluments clause of the Constitution of the United States – written over two hundred years ago into the Constitution by our Founding Fathers - prohibits any member of our government from profiting from their office, accepting any present emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state. The reason for the emoluments clause is plain: the framers were worried that members of our government could be co-opted or influenced by the bribery of foreign capitals and thus prohibited even the potential for self-enrichment. They knew then what we know now. We don’t want double-dealing by our elected officials, and when they have private interests you never know if they are acting in what they believe to be the national interest, or to help them make a profit.

With President Trump, we sincerely hope that no such self-enrichment is going on with, but it remains a great concern to millions of Americans that President Trump has maintained a stake in a vast business empire with holdings all over the world. President Trump continues to profit from these holdings, while he refuses to divest - an appalling departure from well-established practices of past presidents. It shows the degree of selfishness that we haven’t seen in presidents.

The president still refuses to disclose his tax returns and the precise extent of his private holdings – another radical and disturbing departure from past presidents. This president acts like he is in the swamp, not like he is cleaning it up. The president’s actions certainly present the possibility of exposure to violations of the emoluments clause. So I believe it’s a good thing that the courts are looking at this. That’s what the Constitution says they should do. It’s a good thing the courts are taking it seriously. We cannot afford to have the Presidency of the United States corrupted for narrow, selfish means. President Trump could easily-– you want to be president? You give up all the stuff you own. Every president has done it.

There were blind trusts, there were all kinds of ways to do it, but this president seems to think that he is measured by a different standard than anyone else. Anyone else makes their tax returns public, he does not. Everyone else divests themselves of any interest in foreign business to even avoid the appearance of conflict, he does not. It’s a double-standard, and when the president says he wants to clean up the swamp when he goes to his rallies and gets cheered, what are those people cheering for? He’s made the swamp worse than any president I know. 

In other news, we have learned that the president is very keen on his pardon power. The president went so far as to tweet earlier this week that he believes he has the “absolute right” – his words – to pardon himself. Let me remind President Trump of a very simple fact: President Trump, you do not have the right to pardon yourself. No one – no one – in America is above the law, not even the president, especially the president.

If the president did have the right to pardon himself, he could engage in blatant corruption and self-dealing without consequence. The president could violate the emoluments clause, for example, and simply exonerate himself for taking bribes from foreign interests. Surely that’s not what our framers intended; it would turn the presidency into a farce, and render American democracy greatly defunct.

When the president says and tweets things like this, we have to be very clear about how wrong he is. We cannot allow the morality of this government, the shining example the Founding Fathers put together, to just recede. President Trump is doing this on a daily basis, and we need not just Democrats, we need Republicans and Independents to stand up when he says things like that. I was glad to hear that a number of my Republican colleagues say that he didn’t have the power to pardon himself. I was proud of Senator Grassley – who always speaks his mind, sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t, but he always speaks his mind – talk about how wrong it was for the president to say he could pardon himself. The idea that the president can pardon anyone, anytime, himself included, is antithetical to the very idea of democracy. President Trump, you are not king by another name. I hope the president will focus instead on the nation’s business in the days and months ahead.