Prosecuting the Chinese Huawei executive is an idiotic way to hold China in check

By Zachary Karabell
Zachary Karabell is the author of several books, including “The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World.”

Even if the telecom company poses a national security threat, this is not the way to fight it.


Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, left, appears at a bail hearing in Vancouver, B.C. (Jane Wolsak/Reuters) (Stringer/Reuters)

December 8 at 6:00 AM           The Washington Post

The U.S.-China relationship seemed to improve last week at the G-20 summit in Argentina, where President Trump announced he had reached an important agreement with President Xi Jinping. Then, an ominous development: American authorities asked Canada to arrest the chief financial officer of one of China’s largest technologies companies for alleged sanctions fraud and violations of U.S. export controls. Meng Wanzhou isn’t just a top leader at Huawei, which makes phones and other gadgets; she is also the daughter of the company’s founder and chairman, which makes her arrest somewhat like the Chinese arresting the daughter of Steve Jobs if she had helped run Apple. It would be an understatement to say that Beijing did not react well: It demanded her release and accused the U.S. government of violating the rights of a Chinese citizen.

The timing could hardly be worse, and from what can be told, it reflects the overall chaos of the Trump administration. National security adviser John Bolton claimed he was informed of the pending arrest by the Justice Department but did not pass that information to the president. That no one in the White House considered the implications of her arrest on the tenuous trade truce between China and the United States is itself rather astonishing.

The case against Huawei and its executives may be legitimate under U.S. law, but it is nonetheless a hideous political mistake. Perhaps Huawei used American-made components in equipment it sold to Iran, violating U.S. sanctions. But even in less ambiguous cases, there is always such a thing as prosecutorial discretion. Not every case that can be brought should be brought, and not every case should be prosecuted to the full letter of the law. In international cases, that is doubly true. If the United States wants to respond to China’s rise and manage the changing role of the United States in the international system, it could hardly have picked a dumber tactic.

Huawei is not exactly a noble avatar of social responsibility. Since at least 2016, when President Barack Obama was in office, the Commerce Department has been investigating Huawei for export violations to Iran and North Korea. In the spring of 2017, the Treasury Department opened its own inquiry.

Even before that, though, Huawei operated on the margins of legality. In 2003, Cisco sued it for copying some of the code used in its routers. (Huawei admitted as much before the trial and promised to stop.) In 2012, a House committee named the company as a potential threat to U.S. national security because of its ties to the Chinese government, its legacy of intellectual property theft and its ability to embed spyware in its phones. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have already blocked Huawei from being part of the initial build-out of the next generation 5G telecom networks.

Even if everything alleged is correct, however, the quest against Huawei is a ridiculous overreach — predicated on an assumption that the United States can dictate how foreign competitors conduct business. Yes, the company has deep ties with the Chinese Communist Party, though it’s worth mulling whether those are any more pernicious than the close bonds that connect defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed with the Pentagon.

More important, global supply chains are now deeply interconnected and touch multiple countries and numerous companies. Samsung, for instance, is the second largest cellphone provider in Iran, behind Huawei, while the Swedish telecom company Ericsson has been selling equipment to Iran even under the sanctions. Those companies may have done a better job not using American components for products sold to those countries, though with the complexity of global component sourcing, it is unlikely that no American intellectual property has been used by Iranian consumers. Yet U.S. prosecutors are not trying to curtail the work of those mega-technology giants, or aggressively investigating where every component originated.

Samsung and Ericsson, of course, are domiciled in countries that are American allies, whereas Huawei is tightly connected to what is now being seen by many as a prime American adversary. The initial reaction in China, judging by the social media flow and some interviews, is that the Americans are using their legal system to advance political interests in an ongoing contest with China.

There is a long and debated legacy on how far American laws extend. On the one hand, the Supreme Court has recognized a “presumption against extraterritoriality,” which holds that U.S. laws should not be enforced outside the United States. On the other, there are statutes such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which punishes bribery by foreign entities. Sanctions occupy a zone of their own, whereby the U.S. government has acted against other countries by threateningforeign companies that do business with them, if they also do business in the U.S. To the degree that the United States has enjoyed dominant economic power relative to any one country that might object, it has been able to use law enforcement as one tool among many to achieve policy objectives.

That works, however, primarily where there are stark power imbalances, which is clearly not the case with China. Arresting the No. 2 executive of one of the world’s largest technology companies is an ineffective way to achieve policy aims — and a very effective way to complicate negotiations that matter rather more. It’s one thing to ban Huawei’s 5G components from the U.S. market, a defensible response to a perceived threat. That’s an unassailable invocation of American sovereignty (which would still carry a steep economic and political cost).

It’s something else entirely to arrest a very senior executive and potentially try her for evading U.S. export controls. Using law enforcement against individuals for corporate actions of this sort risks backfiring spectacularly. It is easily painted as a crude attempt by the Trump administration to put pressure on Beijing in the coming trade negotiations, even if that is not the actual intent. It exposes American executives to potential retaliation in China and abroad in a tit-for-tat that will chill an already frosty business climate, with direct effects on the domestic American economy and markets. And it may succeed only in pushing technology even further into national camps that compete and develop their own protocols, which appears to be happening with the evolution of artificial intelligence. We can hope to win that competition, but it will prove costlier than the mutual dependence that defined much of the past two decades.

Saudi crown prince exchanged messages with aide alleged to have overseen Khashoggi killing

By Shane Harris and Souad Mekhennet

December 1 at 8:18 PM                          The Washington Post

In the hours before and after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a senior aide who allegedly oversaw the assassination exchanged multiple messages, according to people familiar with the matter.

The communications between the two men are another piece of evidence tying the crown prince to the killing of Khashoggi, a former palace insider turned prominent critic, who also was a contributing columnist to The Washington Post.

The CIA included the existence of the messages in its classified assessment that Mohammed is likely to have ordered Khashoggi’s death, a view that agency officials have shared with members of Congress and the White House.

Mohammed exchanged the messages on Oct. 2 with Saud al-Qahtani, one of his closest aides and a fierce public supporter who has kept a blacklist of those he deems disloyal to the kingdom. The content of the messages, and what form the messages took, was not known, according to people familiar with the matter.

Citing portions of the CIA’s written assessment, the Wall Street Journal first reported on Saturday that Mohammed had sent at least 11 messages to Qahtani before and after the killing.

The CIA has rated its assessment that Mohammed was involved in the killing at “medium-to-high confidence,” and privately, officials have said it is inconceivable that the prince, who exercises total authority over the government, could not have known about such an audacious operation. The Post had previously described officials as saying that the CIA had high confidence in its assessment.

“The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions. The CIA has declined to comment, and people familiar with the intelligence said the agency has not found any single piece of evidence that irrefutably links Mohammed directly to the killing.

Trump administration officials on Sunday continued to stress that point and emphasized the importance of the United States maintaining a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has acknowledged that its operatives killed Khashoggi, but it says the operation was not authorized by the crown prince and was undertaken by rogue actors.

“I have read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of the United States government,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with CNN on Saturday, “and when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Pompeo, who declined to comment on the CIA’s classified assessment, said the United States was working closely with Saudi Arabia on major foreign policy issues, including Afghanistan, and that the kingdom was a vital regional counterweight to Iran.

“They are a relationship that has mattered for 70 years across Republican and Democrat administrations alike,” said Pompeo, who previously served as the CIA director. “It remains an important relationship, and we’re aiming to keep that relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the question of holding the killers responsible and the strategic importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship were separate issues.

“Accountability for the murder of Khashoggi stands alone. It is distinct from any other factor going on,” Mattis said in remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California.

“Right now, we do not have a smoking gun,” he said, noting that he had seen all the latest intelligence in the matter as of Friday. “We do not have a smoking gun [showing] that the crown prince was involved. We certainly need to continue to explore . . . all aspects of the murder and find anyone who was involved, but that should not in any way dissuade us from basically confronting Iran,” which the Trump administration views as its major adversary in the Middle East and one that Saudi Arabia is essential to confronting.

Qahtani has emerged as a key player in the killing and a compelling link to the prince. He shows up in another portion of the CIA’s assessment: An alleged member of the Saudi hit team that U.S. and Turkish officials said Qahtani oversaw, Maher Mutreb, called Qahtanifrom inside the consulate to inform him Khashoggi was dead, The Post has previously reported. Mutreb, a security official who was often at the crown prince’s side, is seen on security camera footage entering and leaving the consulate on the day Khashoggi was killed.

The U.S. intelligence community also has intercepts of communications before Khashoggi was killed that show Mohammed had ordered an operation to lure him back to Saudi Arabia. Friends of Khashoggi’s have said that Qahtani called the journalist and raised the potential of his working for the crown prince if he would end his self-imposed exile in Virginia and return to his native country.

Communications that the United States intercepted in July show that Mohammed had asked senior Saudi intelligence officials about the status of a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, according to one intelligence official.

President Trump, who also has been briefed on the CIA’s findings, has been equivocal in assigning blame to the crown prince, who works closely with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Middle East issues.

“Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a statement last month, adding that the true culprits might never be known. The president has said that the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia and the benefit to the U.S. economy from Saudi arms purchases are too important to rupture over the killing of Khashoggi, which he has condemned.

But the latest revelation of intelligence connecting Mohammed and his aide Qahtani to the killing may increase pressure on the administration to take more punitive steps.

The Treasury Department has sanctioned 17 individuals it said were involved in Khashoggi’s death, including Qahtani, Mutreb and the Saudi consul general in Turkey, Mohammad al-Otaibi. But some members of Congress have called for further action, and Republicans have begun defecting from the administration over its support for the Saudis.

Last week, in a rebuke of Saudi Arabia and the administration’s handling of the Khashoggi case, a majority of the Senate voted to advance a measure to end U.S. military support to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen against Iranian-backed militants.

Mekhennet reported from Frankfurt, Germany. Missy Ryan in Simi Valley, Calif., and John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/saudi-crown-prince-exchanged-messages-with-aide-alleged-to-have-overseen-khashoggi-killing/2018/12/01/faa43758-f5c3-11e8-9240-e8028a62c722_story.html?utm_term=.0b100bb2bd8c

New book by Trump advisers alleges that the president has ‘embedded enemies’


Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has co-written a book on the president’s perceived enemies. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

By Philip Rucker
November 24 at 7:00 PM                   The Washington Post

Two of the president’s longest-serving advisers allege in a new book that scores of officials inside the White House, Congress, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies are “embedded enemies of President Trump” working to stymie his agenda and delegitimize his presidency.

The authors, Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie, are both Republican operatives who do not work in the administration but are close to Trump and fashion themselves as his outside protectors. They portray the president as victim to disloyalty on his staff and “swamp creatures” intent on extinguishing his political movement.

Their book, “Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency,” which is being released Tuesday and was obtained in advance by The Washington Post, paints a dark and at times conspiratorial portrait of Trump’s Washington. The authors identify by name a number of Trump appointees who they claim have formed a “resistance” inside the government during the first two years of Trump’s presidency.

Lewandowski and Bossie write that these officials “attack the administration with a thousand cuts. They do this in complete disregard to the millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump. They do it only for their own ends. There are far too many people in the deep reaches of the federal government who harbor as deep a hatred of Trump as does anyone from the Clinton/Obama cabal. The thing is, they get away with it when no one is looking.”

Anticipation of the book — the latest memoir by Trump aides or allies — has caused consternation inside the president’s orbit, in part because the authors are controversial figures. Its release comes at a moment of transition for Trump, who is weighing a number of changes to his Cabinet and senior staff and is preparing for a realignment of power in Washington in January, when Democrats take control of the House.

Lewandowski, the president’s former campaign manager, and Bossie, his former deputy campaign manager, enjoy personal relationships with Trump and traveled with him on campaign trips this year. But some White House aides are said to be suspicious of their motives and worry about them influencing the president — including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who routinely restricted their access to the West Wing, the authors write.

“Trump’s Enemies,” which is 288 pages and published by Center Street, is a sequel to the first book Lewandowski and Bossie wrote together, the campaign memoir “Let Trump Be Trump,” which was released last year.

Lewandowski and Bossie met with Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 20 for a friendly interview, an edited transcript of which appears in the new book. Trump told the authors that he considers the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to have helped him politically.

“I think it makes my base stronger,” Trump said in the interview. “I would have never said this to you. But I think the level of love now is far greater than when we won. I don’t know, what do you think, Mike?”

Vice President Pence, who sat in for a portion of the interview, replied, “As strong or stronger.”

Trump spent much of the interview complaining about the news media. When Bossie asked him who or what is his biggest enemy, Trump replied: “The greatest enemy of this country is Fake News. I really mean it.” He went on to say, “I think that one of the most important things that I’ve done, especially for the public, is explain that a lot of the news is indeed fake.”

Trump told Lewandowski and Bossie that he regrets not immediately dismissing James B. Comey as FBI director. “I should have fired him the day after I won and announced please get the hell out,” Trump said. The president also said congressional Republicans “let me down” by not fighting harder to secure funding to construct a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

Lewandowski and Bossie use their book to settle scores with a number of fellow Trump advisers. They refer to Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who are cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, each as a “rat.”

The authors describe a cohort of White House aides — including former press secretary Sean Spicer and former deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin — as “the November Ninth Club,” arguing that they are establishment Republicans who did not fully support Trump until the day after he was elected, when they began angling for powerful government jobs.

Lewandowski and Bossie also savage former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn as a “limousine liberal” and “the poster boy for the disloyal staff conspiring against President Trump.” And they accuse former staff secretary Rob Porter of working to thwart Trump’s agenda and style to make him more traditionally “presidential.”

The narrative reads in part like Trump’s Twitter grievances in book form. Lewandowski and Bossie write at length about the same FBI and Justice Department officials whose names pepper so many presidential tweets — Comey, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok and Sally Yates. And they go after the same intelligence officials that Trump often targets — James R. Clapper Jr. and John Brennan — and accuse them of wanting to “nullify the election and bring down the president” by detailing Russia’s interference.

The authors also go after many of Trump’s Democratic foes. They refer to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as “crazy”; call Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “many people’s favorite liberal wacko”; and label Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) an “enemy of President Trump.” They also spell out former president Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, echoing a common Republican tactic meant to falsely suggest that the 44th president is a Muslim.

Like Trump, the authors use colorful language to dismiss the Russia investigation, specifically the notion that the Trump campaign conspired with Russians, as a made-up excuse for Democrats losing the 2016 election. They call it “a sweeping work of fiction so complex, so audacious, so unbelievable that if they gave out awards for bad excuses, the Democrats would win an Oscar, an Emmy, and maybe even the Heisman Trophy.”

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-book-by-trump-advisers-calls-out-the-presidents-embedded-enemies/2018/11/24/afcbd0fc-ede3-11e8-baac-2a674e91502b_story.html?utm_term=.5a28d43ff557