White House watching Senate bill that could jeopardize ZTE deal ‘very closely’

As the Senate prepares to vote on a bill that could jeopardize President Trump’s deal with Chinese company ZTE, White House official Mercedes Schlapp said the White House will watch closely to see what the Senate does before it makes any decisions.

“Obviously we’re going to be working with the Senate to see what the Senate came up with before any decisions are made,” she said during an interview on Wednesday with FOX Business’ Stuart Varney. “This is obviously a process we’re watching very closely.”

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.

The National Defense Authorization Act bill includes language that reinstates prior penalties on the company that bar it from buying U.S. products -- essentially a death sentence.

Per Trump’s deal, ZTE will pay $1 billion in fines and put $400 million in escrow, as well as overhaul its board of directors. Schlapp, the White House director of strategic communications, said the U.S. Commerce Department can also embed hand-picked individuals within the company.

“It was a very strict deal that President Trump pushed forward,” she said.

Bipartisan critics of the deal wonder whether striking a deal with ZTE -- which national security officials warned posed an intelligence risk -- sends a signal that Trump is too lax on companies that won’t comply with U.S.-mandated sanctions.