Three Republican senators condemned a Biden nominee who was previously employed by a Chinese tech company that is currently sanctioned by the U.S.
The Senate Intelligence Committee advanced the nomination of Christopher Fonzone to be general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday. Fonzone was previously employed as a lobbyist by Huawei, a Chinese tech company that the Federal Communications Commission considers a threat to national security. (RELATED: Trump’s DOJ Charges Huawei With Fraud Amid Heightened Tensions With US)
Several key legal nominations announced, including Christopher Fonzone as GC of ODNI and my law school classmate Todd Kim as AAG for ENRD. https://t.co/FTSfnuYd8r
— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) March 15, 2021
Fonzone is currently a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, a law firm that Huawei first hired for lobbying in 2019. Huawei still contracts with Sidley Austin, the Washington Free Beacon reported. During a confirmation hearing, Fonzone admitted to doing “a very small amount of analysis” for Huawei, “less than 10 hours.”
Huawei is legally required to provide information to the Chinese intelligence community, although it is technically privately owned. The company has also sent employees to help African leaders spy on political opponents, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The United States must take unified steps to combat the CCP, not put its employees and contractors in positions of power with access to sensitive information,” Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said in a statement.
Fonzone previously served as Deputy Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, panned the nomination.
“Mr. Fonzone’s work on behalf of Huawei and China’s Ministry of Commerce may have been technical in nature, but it raises serious questions about his judgment and decision making, especially considering his previous national security roles in government. His evasiveness and unwillingness to answer direct questions on the real nature of the Chinese threat is disqualifying,” he said.
“After Mr. Fonzone left President Obama’s National Security Council, he did legal work for Huawei. He knew exactly who Huawei is and he knew that he didn’t have to take their money,” Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said of Fonzone’s time at Sidley Austin. “In fact, today he told the committee that he had declined to work on certain cases for ethical reasons, but he didn’t decline Huawei and I’m not sure how on earth it’s ethical to work for a company that’s a key player in the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide of the Uyghurs,” Sasse added.