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Joe Lieberman Listening to U.S. National Security Concerns for Chinese Telecom Giant ZTE

Published: January 16, 2019
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Via: Open Secrets:

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has officially filed as a lobbyist for Chinese telecom company ZTE, registration forms released Wednesday confirmed.

ZTE has long been under fire from U.S. officials and members of Congress who say the company could endanger national security by providing espionage opportunities for the Chinese government.

Though the well-connected Lieberman was thought to be hired to help take pressure off of the embattled ZTE, his firm Kasowitz Benson Torres (KBT) — the law firm of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney Marc Kasowitz — tells a different story.

Clarine Nardi Riddle, chair of the firm’s Government Affairs and Strategic Counsel Practice Group and Lieberman’s former chief of staff in the Senate who also registered as a lobbyist for ZTE, said Lieberman is not actually “lobbying” for ZTE but rather is gathering concerns about the company from lawmakers and officials.

“Senator Lieberman is conducting a national security assessment investigation, where he will listen to congressional, executive branch, and customer national security concerns, but will not be attempting to influence them nor advocate on ZTE’s behalf,” Nardi Riddle told the Center for Responsive Politics in an email.

“His mission is to listen, assess and then make recommendations to ZTE on how to address U.S. national security concerns. While these activities are not associated with the common understanding of “lobbying,” the Lobbying and Disclosure Act can be interpreted to require registration because he is meeting with “covered officials” under the statute. Out of an abundance of caution, Senator Lieberman will register under the LDA so that there will be no question about his and ZTE’s transparency and compliance.”

The LDA disclosure reiterates the refrain that Lieberman and KBT are not advocating for ZTE but have decided to register under the LDA “in the interest of transparency and caution.”

After collecting his findings, Lieberman and his firm claim he will submit a report to ZTE including the concerns of executive branch officials and members of Congress.

“These sound like the kinds of activities that would come close to triggering FARA registration,” said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

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