National security adviser John Bolton did not know about the arrest of a top Chinese telecommunications executive before President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Argentina, a spokesperson for Bolton told CBS News. Bolton told NPR earlier Thursday he “knew in advance,” but his spokesperson said the comment referred to the briefing Bolton received before news reports surfaced about the arrest.
NPR asked Bolton if Mr. Trump knew about the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, before he met with Xi on Saturday. Bolton answered “you know, I don’t know the answer to that. I knew in advance, but this is something that’s, that we get from the Justice Department and these kinds of things happen with some frequency. We certainly don’t inform the president on every one of them.”
But later in the day, Bolton’s spokesperson told CBS News that neither Bolton or the president were aware of the arrest before the meeting. A White House spokesperson told CBS News that the president did not know about the arrest before his dinner with Xi.
Meng was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver on Dec. 1 — the same day Mr. Trump met with China’s leader. Bolton’s spokesperson said the arrest transpired roughly around the same time the president was meeting with the Chinese delegation in Buenos Aires, and that Bolton was briefed on the issue after returning to Washington earlier this week.
China demanded on Thursday that Canadian authorities release Meng, who faces possible extradition to the U.S. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa said Meng’s human rights were being violated and demanded her immediate release.
Canadian Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod confirmed her arrest on Wednesday, but said he could not provide further details on the case due to a publication ban imposed at Meng’s request. She has a bail hearing on Friday, he said.
Huawei issued a statement saying Meng was changing flights in Canada when she was detained “on behalf of the United States of America” to face “unspecified charges” in New York. “The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng,” the statement said. “The company believes the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion.”
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that U.S. authorities were investigating whether the Chinese tech giant had violated sanctions on Iran. Canadian media also reported on Wednesday that the detention was likely linked to suspected U.S. sanctions violations. Huawei has said it complies with all laws and rules where it operates, including export controls and sanctions of the United Nations, the U.S. and European Union.
As news of the arrest surfaced, lawmakers in Washington denounced Huawei for alleged links to China’s communist leadership.
Sen. Marco Rubio called for Meng’s extradition. “The arrest of Huawei’s CFO by the Canadian government for potential violations of Iran sanctions is welcome,” he said. “Huawei has direct ties to the Chinese government and Communist Party, has long posed a serious risk to U.S. national security.”
Sen. Mark Warner, who wrote a letter alongside Rubio to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau in October asking him to reconsider including Huawei in its country’s 5G network, urged the Trump administration to hold the Chinese telecommunications giant “accountable.”
“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party – and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion,’ is no exception,” he said “It has been clear for some time that Huawei, like ZTE, poses a threat to our national security.”