Trump plans to order Chinese company to sell TikTok's US operations: reports

Trump plans to order Chinese company to sell TikTok's US operations: reports
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE plans to announce an executive order soon aimed at forcing Beijing-based ByteDance to sell U.S. operations for the popular social media platform TikTok, according to multiple reports on Friday.

Bloomberg reported that Trump could sign the executive order as soon as Friday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Trump told reporters while leaving the White House on Friday that he was "looking at TikTok" and considering a ban.

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“We may be banning TikTok, we may be doing some other things,” Trump said. “There are a couple of options, but a lot of things are happening so we will see what happens. We are looking at a lot of alternatives with TikTok.”

Trump’s comments echo those of Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Democrats subpoena top aides to Pompeo MORE, who said last month that the Trump administration was considering banning Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, due to national security concerns. 

The White House did not have any immediate further comment, while the Treasury Department and TikTok did not immediately respond to The Hill’s requests for comment.

"While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok," a spokesperson for the company said in a statement to The Hill.

"Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform," they added. "We’re motivated by their passion and creativity, and committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform."

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The New York Times separately reported on Friday that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the report.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  McConnell: 15-20 GOP senators will not vote for any coronavirus deal Trump plans to order Chinese company to sell TikTok's US operations: reports MORE (R-Mo.), who has been a vocal critic of TikTok’s potential ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), tweeted Friday that the executive order was “big news if accurate - and exactly the right outcome. #China-based @BytedanceTalk should not own tech companies in the United States.”

TikTok has come under fire in recent months, with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle criticizing the company for potentially sending sensitive data to the CCP and censoring content on behalf of the Chinese government.

The company has pushed back strongly against these claims, saying it would never disclose sensitive data to the CCP, and taking steps to distance itself from China, including moving American data storage to the U.S. and hiring former Disney executive Kevin Mayer to serve as CEO. 

These moves have not damped congressional concerns, with Hawley and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urging the Justice Department on Thursday to open an investigation into TikTok, and a separate group of Republican senators earlier in the week raising concerns to top federal agencies that the CCP could use TikTok to interfere in U.S. elections. 

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If Trump does announce an executive order requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok, it would not be the first time the U.S. has taken this type of step. 

Dating app Grindr was sold by Beijing Kunlun Tech in March after the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) raised security concerns last year, while President Trump in 2018 scuttled a planned takeover of mobile chip company Qualcomm by Broadcom following similar national security concerns from CFIUS. 

CFIUS also launched a national security review into ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly last year.