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FBI Director Christopher Wray Reiterates Concerns About ZTE After Trump Tweets

What was supposed to be a simple hearing on the president’s FBI 2019 budget request Wednesday turned into a discussion about China’s espionage capabilities thanks to a group of surprise tweets from – drumroll please – President Donald Trump.

Trump tweeted about an impending deal involving Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, against which the commerce department issued an export ban.

Leaders in the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA warned in a hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee February of the dangers of buying smartphones from Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE, a position which directly led to the export ban.

Upon learning of Trump’s tweets which appear to hint at the contrary, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Wray for his opinions on the matter during the budget hearing.

“If the president allows ZTE further access to our market and to American technology, could this place both our telecommunications networks and Americans’ private data at risk?” he asked.

“We, the FBI, remain deeply concerned that any company beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values are not companies that we want to be gaining positions of power inside our telecommunications network,” Wray replied. “That gives them the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information, that gives them the capacity to conduct undetected espionage, that gives them the capacity to exert pressure or control.”

Later on in the hearing, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) got a little more to the point.

“Just to put it bluntly, what was President Trump thinking when he tweeted out what he did about putting ZTE back in business?”

“Senator, I can’t speak to what anybody else was thinking,” Wray responded. “I’m not really a Twitter guy.”

Watch above, via C-SPAN.


[image via screengrab]