President Donald Trump expressed concern Wednesday with any deal involving TikTok that would allow its Chinese parent company to retain control over the video-sharing app — casting doubt on the company’s latest effort to keep the app alive in the U.S.
The president issued an executive order last month that would ban TikTok, arguing it could potentially funnel data belonging to its 100 million American users to China. The company has denied it would do so.
This week, Beijing-based ByteDance proposed creating a global headquarters in the U.S. and bringing on American tech company Oracle as its “trusted technology partner.” The exact ownership structure is not yet clear, though some media outlets have reported ByteDance would keep a majority stake in the company.
“I mean, just conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that,” Trump told reporters. “So, if that’s the case, I’m not going to be happy with that. Assuming that ByteDance is China, which I think it probably is.”
Trump said he would be briefed on the deal Thursday morning and had only seen media reports about its terms. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., an inter-agency panel led by the Treasury Department, reviewed the proposal at its meeting Tuesday and is slated to make a recommendation to Trump this week.
“They’re giving me studies on the deal,” he said. “It has to be 100 percent as far as national security is concerned. And, no, I’m not prepared to sign off on anything. I have to see the deal.”
Republican allies in the Senate, including. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have pushed back on any deal with would not remove ByteDance from TikTok’s ownership structure.
Trump signed an executive order Aug. 6 requiring ByteDance to stop doing business in the U.S. effective this Sunday out of concern about its alleged ties to the Chinese government. TikTok has denied providing data to Beijing and has pledged it would never do so.
Nevertheless, Trump then issued a second executive order giving the company time to find a U.S. buyer for TikTok. Those negotiations led to a proposal involving Oracle, and potentially other U.S. firms, taking on a role in the company’s U.S. operations but not purchasing them outright.
Trump has previous said he wants the Treasury Department to collect money on any deal, arguing his executive orders made a sale possible and the government should be compensated. On Thursday, he expressed disbelief that lawyers have determined such payments are unprecedented.
“Amazingly, I find that you’re not allowed to do that. You’re not allowed to accept money,” Trump said.
“What kind of a thing is this? If they’re willing to make big payments to the government, they’re not allowed because there’s no way of doing that. There’s no legal path to doing that,” he continued.