ZTE hired a former Trump campaign official to lobby against the denial order imposed on it by the Commerce Department, having enlisted the help of one Bryan Lanza from Washington D.C. lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs on May 14, The Daily Beast reports. The move came a day after President Trump revealed he's working with China in order to get the crippled Chinese company back into business as quickly as possible. The collaboration was agreed through mediation efforts from Hoan Lovells, a law firm headquartered in the U.S. capital that's been a long-term representative of ZTE, according to the phone maker's filing with the DOJ made under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Mercury will net $225,000 in total for three months' worth of lobbying activities on ZTE's behalf, as per the same documents.
The Daily Beast claims Mr. Lanza is still close to the President and still speaks with him personally on an occasion. The lobbyist was a member of the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential race in the United States. He's now assumed to be personally involved in the talks between ZTE and federal regulators that are meant to replace the company's denial order with a $1.3 billion fine and a broad range of concessions, including board and management changes. Recent reports indicate the financial penalty for the violation of a 2017 settlement over broken U.S. sanctions imposed on North Korea and Iran may reach as much as $1.7 billion. ZTE already paid an $892 million fine as part of the original settlement last year.
The Shenzhen-based company halted its operations last month after the DOJ's denial order prevented it from purchasing Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips and licensing an up-to-date version of the Android operating system and Google's apps. The firm is presently surviving on cash reserves but it's currently unclear how long it can maintain solvency. President Trump is pushing for a more lenient penalty as part of broader trade negotiations with China but is facing bipartisan opposition from Congress in his efforts to do so.