Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Walks to the Senate Subway after a vote in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
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Have three Republican Senators jointly expressed opposition to a candidate from the Biden Administration for legal advice in the office of the director of the National Intelligence Service for his previous work for Chinese tech giant Huawei
Of Members of the Senate Select Committee on IntelligenceFour voted against Christopher Fonzone’s nomination, including Senators Ben Sasse from Nebraska, Marco Rubio from Florida and Tom Cotton from Arkansas.
“You can’t work for Huawei and then for the director of the National Intelligence Service,” Sasse said in one Declaration released on Wednesday.
The US director for national intelligence is the Head of the US intelligence community and acts as the primary intelligence adviser to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council.
Fonzone served as Legal Adviser to the National Security Council during President Barack Obama’s second term. In November 2017, he joined Sidley Austin law firm, which also lobbies has done legal work for China Ministry of Commerce and Huawei – although less than 50 billable hours for each, according to a questionnaire he filled out for the committee.
When Huawei was under US supervision in 2019, at least three Sidley Austin attorneys were registered to lobby on behalf of the Chinese company National Law Journal.
Huawei did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Fonzone said working for Huawei would not affect its ability to provide objective legal advice to the ODNI.
“The firm asked me to investigate how US law works. I did a de minimis amount of work, less than 10 hours, explaining how US administrative law works. I have it made available to my partners and … I haven’t had any follow-up since then ” he said at a hearing on May 18th.
Senator Sasse argued that Fonzone “knows full well that the Chinese Communist Party is not interested in obeying the law” but in “circumventing” it.
Rubio said in the joint statement that Fonzone’s work on behalf of Huawei and China’s Ministry of Commerce in 2018 “raises serious questions about its judgment and decision-making”.
“Any candidate who qualifies for a major national security post from a law firm or other entity that works for the Chinese Communist Party or a state-run Chinese entity such as Huawei needs extra scrutiny,” said Rubio, who also vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Secret Services.
“I am very aware of what (National Intelligence Director Avril Haines) said about Huawei and what this committee said about Huawei,” replied Fonzone. “If confirmed, I would be guided by the intelligence services’ views on Huawei. That would support my analysis.”
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton described Huawei as “the key to the Chinese Communist Party’s military and espionage apparatus” and claimed that Fonzone “refused to avoid such a conflict of interest” if confirmed.
“The United States must take consistent steps to combat the CCP and not place its employees and contractors in positions of power with access to sensitive information,” he said.
As CNBC previously reported, the national security laws in China would require Huawei or any other Chinese organization or person to share the information requested by the Beijing government as part of its intelligence work.
Huawei has made a strong claim that it would never share customer data, and Huawei told CNBC in 2019 that it was never asked to.