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US Senators Drop Efforts to Cripple China’s ZTE

U.S. Republican lawmakers have dropped their efforts to reimpose a crippling ban on exports to the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

The move Friday gives a victory to U.S. President Donald Trump who has championed for ZTE to stay in business. 

Republican senators Friday dropped legislation that would block ZTE from buying component parts from the United States. Senators had included the legislation in a defense spending bill passed last month, but a House version of the defense bill did not include the same provision.

Lawmakers say senators decided to leave the provision out of the final compromise bill, which is expected to come to a vote in the House and Senate in the coming days.

Lawmakers from both parties have been critical of President Trump over his decision to lift a ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blasted Friday’s developments.

“By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest  have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners,” he said in a statement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called dropping the provision “bad news” in a tweet Friday.ZTE is accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, despite a U.S. trade embargo.

In April, the U.S. Commerce Department barred ZTE from importing American components for its telecommunications products for the next seven years, practically putting the company out of business. 

However, Trump later announced a deal with ZTE in which the Chinese company would pay a $1 billion fine for its trade violations, as well as replace its entire management and board by the middle of July.

The Commerce Department announced last week that it has formally lifted the ban on ZTE after the Chinese company complied with all terms of the settlement. 

Most of the world first heard of the dispute over ZTE in May after one of Trump’s tweets.

 

 

 

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US Senators Drop Efforts to Cripple China’s ZTE

U.S. Republican lawmakers have dropped their efforts to reimpose a crippling ban on exports to the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

The move Friday gives a victory to U.S. President Donald Trump who has championed for ZTE to stay in business. 

Republican senators Friday dropped legislation that would block ZTE from buying component parts from the United States. Senators had included the legislation in a defense spending bill passed last month, but a House version of the defense bill did not include the same provision.

Lawmakers say senators decided to leave the provision out of the final compromise bill, which is expected to come to a vote in the House and Senate in the coming days.

Lawmakers from both parties have been critical of President Trump over his decision to lift a ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blasted Friday’s developments.

“By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest  have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners,” he said in a statement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called dropping the provision “bad news” in a tweet Friday.ZTE is accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, despite a U.S. trade embargo.

In April, the U.S. Commerce Department barred ZTE from importing American components for its telecommunications products for the next seven years, practically putting the company out of business. 

However, Trump later announced a deal with ZTE in which the Chinese company would pay a $1 billion fine for its trade violations, as well as replace its entire management and board by the middle of July.

The Commerce Department announced last week that it has formally lifted the ban on ZTE after the Chinese company complied with all terms of the settlement. 

Most of the world first heard of the dispute over ZTE in May after one of Trump’s tweets.

 

 

 

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Democrats Want to Compel Interpreter to Testify About Helsinki Summit

U.S. Democratic lawmakers are trying to compel a government interpreter to testify about what was discussed during President Donald Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but legal analysts say that is not likely to happen — unless the president allows it.

Trump and Putin met privately for more than two hours at Monday’s Helsinki summit. Only interpreters were present for the meeting, and details of what was discussed remain unknown to anyone else.

Democrats want to compel the U.S. government interpreter, Marina Gross, to testify before lawmakers, while Republicans are blocking the move.

The call for Gross to testify raises questions concerning legality, executive privilege and the ethical code for interpreters who pride themselves on their discretion and confidentiality.

“There is no precedent for issuing a subpoena for the translator,” scholar William Pomeranz told VOA.

Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said he did not expect the translator to be questioned by Congress, “especially because the intent of the [Trump-Putin] meeting was to be an off-the-record conversation.”

Subpoena request

Democrats say that they are concerned about what Trump may have said to Putin and that the circumstances of the summit are exceptional. They cite the fact that the Trump’s administration is already being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller over Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and say the circumstances justify subpoenaing Trump’s interpreter.

The White House has been engulfed in controversy since the Helsinki summit, when Trump cast doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump has since walked back his comments, saying he does believe U.S. intelligence conclusions.

Pomeranz said the summit “is still clouded in mystery in terms of what were the concrete results.”

He said, “President Putin has suggested there were certain agreements that emerged from the summit. Yet, the State Department and President Trump have not articulated them.”

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff of California, formally requested Thursday that the committee issue a subpoena for Gross to testify, but he was overruled by Republicans who hold the majority in the House.

Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey also raised concerns about whether Trump could have used the summit to pursue his worldwide business interests.

“Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests,” he wrote in a letter requesting that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hear public testimony from Gross.

Executive privilege

Conservatives in the House are arguing that executive privilege shields a president’s interpreter from reporting to Congress, and many if not most legal scholars seem to agree.

While Congress has an oversight role over the executive branch, conservative lawmakers say that presidents should be able to meet with world leaders and speak candidly without interference from lawmakers.

They also warn that subpoenaing Gross would create a dangerous precedent that could hurt the state of U.S. diplomacy as well as future presidents of either party.

Legal scholars who expressed opinions said it’s likely that only Trump could permit Gross to tell anyone about what she heard. The White House has not said whether Trump has asked her to do that.

Interpreters’ code of ethics

The move by Democrats to compel Gross to testify also raised questions about the right of interpreters to adhere to their code of ethics, which bounds them to strict secrecy.

Interpreters say they view their ethics code of confidentiality similar to the lawyer-client privilege or the duty of priests not to disclose what penitents tell them during confession.

Interpreters also say that it can sometimes be difficult to recall the big picture of a conversation they have listened to after relying on short-term memory to interpret.

Pomeranz said the role of the translator is “focused simply on making the statements, not necessarily of the content of the discussions.”

“To be a simultaneous translator is a very difficult job and it doesn’t necessary mean you are in the position to remember the specific details of the conversation,” he said.

Gross is an employee of the State Department and has served as an interpreter to high-level U.S. government officials before. She was the interpreter for Laura Bush at the Russian resort of Sochi in 2008 and interpreted for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow in 2017.

VOA’s Sarah Williams and Pete Cobus contributed.to this report.

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Democrats Want to Compel Interpreter to Testify About Helsinki Summit

U.S. Democratic lawmakers are trying to compel a government interpreter to testify about what was discussed during President Donald Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but legal analysts say that is not likely to happen — unless the president allows it.

Trump and Putin met privately for more than two hours at Monday’s Helsinki summit. Only interpreters were present for the meeting, and details of what was discussed remain unknown to anyone else.

Democrats want to compel the U.S. government interpreter, Marina Gross, to testify before lawmakers, while Republicans are blocking the move.

The call for Gross to testify raises questions concerning legality, executive privilege and the ethical code for interpreters who pride themselves on their discretion and confidentiality.

“There is no precedent for issuing a subpoena for the translator,” scholar William Pomeranz told VOA.

Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said he did not expect the translator to be questioned by Congress, “especially because the intent of the [Trump-Putin] meeting was to be an off-the-record conversation.”

Subpoena request

Democrats say that they are concerned about what Trump may have said to Putin and that the circumstances of the summit are exceptional. They cite the fact that the Trump’s administration is already being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller over Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and say the circumstances justify subpoenaing Trump’s interpreter.

The White House has been engulfed in controversy since the Helsinki summit, when Trump cast doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump has since walked back his comments, saying he does believe U.S. intelligence conclusions.

Pomeranz said the summit “is still clouded in mystery in terms of what were the concrete results.”

He said, “President Putin has suggested there were certain agreements that emerged from the summit. Yet, the State Department and President Trump have not articulated them.”

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff of California, formally requested Thursday that the committee issue a subpoena for Gross to testify, but he was overruled by Republicans who hold the majority in the House.

Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey also raised concerns about whether Trump could have used the summit to pursue his worldwide business interests.

“Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests,” he wrote in a letter requesting that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hear public testimony from Gross.

Executive privilege

Conservatives in the House are arguing that executive privilege shields a president’s interpreter from reporting to Congress, and many if not most legal scholars seem to agree.

While Congress has an oversight role over the executive branch, conservative lawmakers say that presidents should be able to meet with world leaders and speak candidly without interference from lawmakers.

They also warn that subpoenaing Gross would create a dangerous precedent that could hurt the state of U.S. diplomacy as well as future presidents of either party.

Legal scholars who expressed opinions said it’s likely that only Trump could permit Gross to tell anyone about what she heard. The White House has not said whether Trump has asked her to do that.

Interpreters’ code of ethics

The move by Democrats to compel Gross to testify also raised questions about the right of interpreters to adhere to their code of ethics, which bounds them to strict secrecy.

Interpreters say they view their ethics code of confidentiality similar to the lawyer-client privilege or the duty of priests not to disclose what penitents tell them during confession.

Interpreters also say that it can sometimes be difficult to recall the big picture of a conversation they have listened to after relying on short-term memory to interpret.

Pomeranz said the role of the translator is “focused simply on making the statements, not necessarily of the content of the discussions.”

“To be a simultaneous translator is a very difficult job and it doesn’t necessary mean you are in the position to remember the specific details of the conversation,” he said.

Gross is an employee of the State Department and has served as an interpreter to high-level U.S. government officials before. She was the interpreter for Laura Bush at the Russian resort of Sochi in 2008 and interpreted for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow in 2017.

VOA’s Sarah Williams and Pete Cobus contributed.to this report.

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California High Court Rejects Proposed Measure to Divide State

In November, Californians will not have to decide whether the state should be partitioned.

The state Supreme Court ruled this week that a measure on partitioning the nation’s most populous state into three could not be put on the ballot for the November midterm elections.

In June, state election officials announced the proposed ballot measure had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot. Yet, the state’s highest judicial body ruled that splitting California would amount to a change in its Constitution, requiring the approval of the state legislature before voters go to the polls.

“Significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity,” the court said. The ruling also said, “We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.”

The measure was backed by California-based venture capitalist Tim Draper. He has long attempted to force a vote on similar measures to divvy up his home state.

“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Draper told the Los Angeles Times last year, after submitting his most recent proposal. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”

A California environmental group, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), opposed the measure.

“California’s Constitution rightfully ensures that voters have a voice in public policy through direct democracy,” Howard Penn, the PCL’s executive director, said in a statement. “If those constitutional safeguards mean anything, they should prevent a billionaire from circumventing the constitutionally required process for making such sweeping changes to our government.”

The high court gave Draper 30 days to respond to the ruling.

If such a measure to divide the state were to pass someday, it would most likely require approval from the U.S. Congress. No U.S. state has been divided since West Virginia broke off from Virginia in 1863, during the Civil War.

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California High Court Rejects Proposed Measure to Divide State

In November, Californians will not have to decide whether the state should be partitioned.

The state Supreme Court ruled this week that a measure on partitioning the nation’s most populous state into three could not be put on the ballot for the November midterm elections.

In June, state election officials announced the proposed ballot measure had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot. Yet, the state’s highest judicial body ruled that splitting California would amount to a change in its Constitution, requiring the approval of the state legislature before voters go to the polls.

“Significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity,” the court said. The ruling also said, “We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.”

The measure was backed by California-based venture capitalist Tim Draper. He has long attempted to force a vote on similar measures to divvy up his home state.

“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Draper told the Los Angeles Times last year, after submitting his most recent proposal. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”

A California environmental group, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), opposed the measure.

“California’s Constitution rightfully ensures that voters have a voice in public policy through direct democracy,” Howard Penn, the PCL’s executive director, said in a statement. “If those constitutional safeguards mean anything, they should prevent a billionaire from circumventing the constitutionally required process for making such sweeping changes to our government.”

The high court gave Draper 30 days to respond to the ruling.

If such a measure to divide the state were to pass someday, it would most likely require approval from the U.S. Congress. No U.S. state has been divided since West Virginia broke off from Virginia in 1863, during the Civil War.

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WhatsApp Makes Changes in India After Deadly Attacks

WhatsApp has announced changes for its 200 million users in India following the spread of viral messages via the app that resulted in deadly mob attacks.

India’s government has threatened to take WhatsApp to court, saying “…the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability.”  The information technology ministry said, “If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”  

The Facebook-owned messaging app said it will limit Indian users’ ability to forward messages, allowing only five contacts at a time to receive them.

The firm said it will also remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.

Both moves are designed to make stop the mass forwards that have resulted in the mob attacks.

India is WhatsApp’s largest market.

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WhatsApp Makes Changes in India After Deadly Attacks

WhatsApp has announced changes for its 200 million users in India following the spread of viral messages via the app that resulted in deadly mob attacks.

India’s government has threatened to take WhatsApp to court, saying “…the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability.”  The information technology ministry said, “If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”  

The Facebook-owned messaging app said it will limit Indian users’ ability to forward messages, allowing only five contacts at a time to receive them.

The firm said it will also remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.

Both moves are designed to make stop the mass forwards that have resulted in the mob attacks.

India is WhatsApp’s largest market.

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