In a closed–door Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday, Christopher Fonzone, who was nominated by Biden in March to be General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ONDI), disclosed his work with Huawei and China’s Ministry of Commerce following his role with the National Security Council under the Obama administration.
Fonzone said his work with Huawei was “limited” and “focused on helping clients understand and comply with U.S. law.”
“I did less than 10 hours of work at the firm’s request answering questions about how U.S. administrative law works,” he told lawmakers Wednesday.
But Fonzone frustrated GOP lawmakers by skirting questions regarding whether we would commit to never again working with the Chinese government or the China-based tech company — whose ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are believed to be a security risk to U.S. intelligence.
“I do not have plans for what I would do after service in government if confirmed,” Fonzone said in response to a question posed by Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse. “But [I] commit to following all post-government ethics rules and restrictions,” he added.
Fonzone’s nomination for the top legal role with the ODNI passed through the intelligence committee in a 12-4 vote.
Sasse, along with Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and James Risch of Idaho, voted against his nomination.
“You can’t work for Huawei and then work for the Director of National Intelligence,” Sasse said in a statement. “He says that he was just helping them understand American regulations, but he knows full well that the Chinese Communist Party isn’t interested in following the law — they’re interested in skirting the law.
“Mr. Fonzone still refuses to commit to not work for the CCP or national champion clients like Huawei after leaving his next stint in government,” he added.
The Trump administration enforced sanctions on Huawei in 2019, including barring it from access to U.S. technology.
Huawei has denied accusations of alleged ties to the CCP or its contribution to Chinese spying.
Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei said he hoped for improved relations under the Biden administration, but the White House has shown no inclination of reversing the Trump-era sanctions.