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Data Sheet—Why Trump Should Think Twice Before Granting ‘Get-Out-of-Jail-Free’ Card to Huawei CFO

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By hinting so publicly and so often that he might grant clemency for Meng Wanzhou, President Trump has created for himself an awkward dilemma.

Meng is the chief financial officer of Huawei Technology, the giant Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer. She also happens to be the daughter of company’s founder Ren Zhengfei. Meng was detained by Canadian authorities in December at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, and remains in Vancouver pending extradition on fraud charges.

Justice Department officials insist the case against Meng is a legal matter and has nothing to do with the Trump administration’s disputes with China’s leadership over trade policy. And yet Trump has suggested on multiple occasions that, as far as he’s concerned, everything is negotiable: he’s willing to intervene to have charges against Meng dropped if that’s what it takes to close a trade deal.

The Financial Times, in a timely analysis, ponders the question: “Can Trump intervene to free Huawei’s Meng?” The short answer is yes. Citing the opinions of chorus of legal experts, the FT concludes that the constitution grants the president ultimate responsibility for making sure laws are upheld; provided his actions don’t benefit him directly, he can pretty much do whatever he wants.

By all accounts, the trade talks have bogged down in recent days. Meng’s fate may one of the final sticking points. Per the FT, if Meng is extradited before a deal is signed, the trade talks would be in jeopardy. But if Trump moves to have the case against Meng dismissed, he’ll face backlash from many camps: the Justice Department, the national security community, congressional Democrats and leaders of his own party (not to mention a lot of angry Canadians).

If Trump orders the attorney general to drop the charges, experts say, he’ll undermine the independence of the U.S. judiciary system. One way to get around that might be to let the charges stand but ask the State Department to drop the extradition request.

Either option creates a dangerous precedent. The FT quotes Brian Michael, a former federal prosecutor and partner at King & Spalding, who worries that meddling in the Meng case to gain political advantage will encourage other countries to see all efforts by the Justice department to pursue foreign nationals as politically motivated and therefore fair game for diplomatic haggling.

For U.S. business executives (and, gulp, American journalists who live and travel in China) the biggest risk is one the FT‘s analysis doesn’t consider. If China and other governments see Meng as a political hostage rather than a suspect in a legitimate criminal investigation, what’s to prevent leaders in other nations from seizing American executives on trumped up charges, too?

Clay Chandler
@claychandler
clay.chandler@timeinc.com

NEWSWORTHY

See you in court. Streaming music giant Spotify filed a formal complaint against Apple with European regulators claiming that the iPhone maker’s practices like collecting 30% of all app revenue on iOS and limiting app access to the Apple Watch are anti-competitive. “This is not a Spotify-versus-Apple issue,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek noted in a blog post. “We want the same fair rules for companies young and old, large and small. It is about supporting and nurturing the healthy ecosystem that made our two companies successful in the first place.” He’s not the only one concerned. In Britain, a government report released on Wednesday urged stricter antitrust regulation of big tech companies.

Imbalanced. Women hold only 14% of leadership positions in tech companies founded by men versus 50% in companies founded by women, according to a new study of 13,000 companies by recruiting firm Stellares. But only 17% of all venture capital-backed startups have at least one woman founder, the firm said.

Counting crocodiles. A flaw in the electronic voting software used in Switzerland could allow hackers to alter votes without being detected, according to a new research paper. Hopefully, software in use by the U.S. Navy and its contractors is stronger. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer says his sector is “under cyber siege” from Chinese hackers.

Fanboys fading. I’m a fan of Google’s fancy Pixelbook, but it’s pretty obvious that not enough other people think the high-cost Chromebook is worthwhile. Now Google is cutting workers from its laptop and slate hardware group and will pare down its portfolio of products, Business Insider reports. Last year’s release of Google’s meh-reviewed, overpriced Pixel Slate running Chrome OS probably didn’t help. Meanwhile in another part of the Googleplex, security-focused unit Jigsaw released a free extension for the Chrome browser that filters out “toxic” comments on sites YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

Starting small. The new, super-fast 5G wireless service for Verizon customers is arriving in portions of Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11 for an extra $10 per month on the carrier’s unlimited plans. Only one phone, the Motorola Z3 with a special 5G mod pack, will be able to use the faster service initially, Verizon says.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In Silicon Valley, only 2.5% of the workforce at tech companies is African-American. In Atlanta, it’s 25% overall, though dropping to 11% of managers and 5% of top executives. Jessica Guynn and Nicquel Terry Ellis profile the scene in Atlanta for USA Today and find a lot of networking and coaching bolstering the ranks of minority tech workers.

Nowhere is Atlanta’s cresting wave of black innovation more evident than here at The Gathering Spot, a members-only, co-working and business networking hub on the site of a turn-of-the-century railway yard west of downtown Atlanta. You never know who you might run into: Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 race for governor of Georgia, rappers T.I. and Killer Mike, the cast of “Greenleaf” from the Oprah Winfrey Network, and a who’s who of the local digerati, like Solomon.

“I don’t think there is a better place in the country if you’re a black entrepreneur to be,” Ryan Wilson, co-founder of The Gathering Spot, says of Atlanta. “I definitely stand as an example of what’s possible in this city if you really stay rooted here.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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A Big Bet on Blockchain and Gaming: Ripple and Forte Announce $100 Million Fund By Jeff John Roberts

Mozilla’s Firefox Send Solves One of Email’s Biggest Problems: Sending Large Files By Alyssa Newcomb

Apple’s Long-Rumored Magazine App Might Work Offline By Don Reisinger

After Amazon Acquisition, Eero CEO Addresses Mesh Network Customers’ Privacy Concerns By Alyssa Newcomb

Millions of Flickr Photos Were Scraped to Train Facial Recognition Software By Emily Price

Japan Announces Plans to Send Toyota to the Moon By Emily Price

BEFORE YOU GO

Wish you had studied harder for that test, decided not to wear that dress today, or generally wanted to go back in time? Scientists at the Laboratory of the Physics of Quantum Information in Moscow says they’ve used an IBM quantum computer to make time flow backwards. We should probably wait for more verification before buying lots of lottery tickets, though.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.