December 12, 2018 9:49 pm
Updated: December 12, 2018 9:53 pm

‘We are not a tool of trade’: U.S. assistant attorney general for security on Trump’s Huawei remark

The U.S. assistant attorney general for security responded Wednesday to Donald Trump's comment that he would intervene in Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou's case if it could help a trade deal with China.

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On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump told media he would intervene in the case of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou if it meant helping to foster a trade deal with China.

One day later, the U.S. assistant attorney general for security sat before a Senate committee and affirmed that the Department of Justice is “not a tool of trade.”

WATCH: Freeland discusses Trump’s remarks on Huawei CFO arrest

John Demers was testifying at a Senate hearing on Chinese espionage against the U.S.

Meng’s case came up when it was Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s turn to ask questions.

“[Trump’s] suggestion that he would intervene to block action by the Department of Justice, either in that extradition proceeding or in the underlying criminal action, is extremely disturbing to me, and I think may be to others in the law enforcement community,” Blumenthal said.

READ MORE: Arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou is not political, U.S. ambassador to Canada says


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He asked the assembled panel — which included Demers as well as Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security — whether Trump’s actions send a “dangerous message to our law enforcement community.”

Demers responded first.

“What we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade,” he said.

READ MORE: Trump willingness to ‘intervene’ on Huawei case leaves Canada in tough spot over ex-diplomat’s arrest

“We follow the facts and we indicate violations of U.S. law. That’s what we’re doing when we bring those cases, and I think it’s very important for other countries to understand that.

“We are not a tool of trade when we bring the cases; that’s what we do when we see them through to their conclusion.”

WATCH: Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CFO, released from custody

Blumenthal then said that Trump’s statement makes it look like “law enforcement is a tool for their trade or other political or diplomatic ends of this country.”

“That may be true in other countries, but not in this one,” he said.

READ MORE: Michael Spavor, who facilitated North Korea travel, ID’d as second Canadian to go missing in China

Priestap then spoke, saying: “I would only echo what John said.

“I don’t know if you’re a New England Patriots football fan at all, but my son is, and what I understand is the Patriots have this motto: ‘Do your job.’ I want you to know from the FBI’s end, we’re going to continue to do our job.”

Trump’s remarks came in a Reuters interview, in which he said: “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made, which is a very important thing, what’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

READ MORE: Chinese state media urges Canada to free Huawei exec to ‘help maintain international order’

The president’s comments could complicate matters for Canada, as ex-Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained this week in a move widely seen as a response to Meng’s apprehension.

A second Canadian has also gone missing in China.

“I can tell you that based on my 13 years of experience in China, there are no coincidences,” said former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, under whom Kovrig worked from 2014 to 2016, said of Kovrig’s arrest.

—With files from Rahul Kalvapalle, Reuters and the Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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