President Donald Trump said Friday that he plans to bar the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok from operating in the United States, a move that comes as officials across Washington accuse the company of posing a national security risk.
“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters traveling with him from Tampa aboard Air Force One. He said he could take action against the company as soon as Saturday.
TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, has come under fire from lawmakers and government officials on both sides of the aisle over fears that it could turn over American users’ information to the Chinese government. TikTok says it has not provided consumers’ personal information to Beijing and would not do so.
The president said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to ban TikTok in the United States.
“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” Trump said, referring to emergency economic powers.
Trump made clear he was not in favor of a deal to let a U.S. company buy TikTok’s American operations, following reports that Microsoft is in talks to do just that.
An administration official said earlier Friday that the administration would force ByteDance to divest ownership of TikTok through a ruling by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed earlier this week that TikTok has been under review by the inter-agency body, which evaluates whether foreign investments pose security risks. ByteDance acquired TikTok’s precursor, Musical.ly, in 2017.
Mnuchin said Wednesday that he expected CFIUS to make a recommendation for action on TikTok this week.
After reports of a planned administration action against the company surfaced earlier Friday, TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza said in a statement, “While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok. 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.”
Fox Business and other news outlets reported that tech giant Microsoft is in talks to acquire TikTok, a move that would give the trillion dollar company a fresh footprint in the social media market. Microsoft declined comment on the reports.
The Trump administration plan to order ByteDance to sell off TikTok was previously reported by Bloomberg.
Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.