President Donald Trump reiterated his intention to force the immensely popular video-sharing app TikTok to close up shop in the United States if the Chinese-owned platform is not sold to U.S. buyers.
“I set a date of around Sep. 15, at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States,” Trump told reporters Monday at the White House, just days after he announced plans to shut the app down over security concerns as soon as this past weekend.
The app has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, and has been the most downloaded non-game app in the world this summer, according to data analytics firm SensorTower, with the U.S. accounting for the second-highest volume of downloads.
But the app, 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. The security concerns mean the app has faced bans both inside the U.S. and elsewhere. TikTok says it has not provided consumers’ personal information to Beijing and would not do so.
In informing reporters on Air Force One on Friday night of his plans to ban the app’s U.S. operations, the president asserted he was not in favor of a deal to let a U.S. company buy TikTok’s American operations. That statement from the president followed reports that Microsoft was in talks to purchase TikTok, with a potential deal said to on track potentially by Monday before Trump voiced his opposition.
But Microsoft revealed Sunday that, following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and the president, the company will push forward with its discussions about a potential purchase, and Trump appeared to have reversed his earlier stance.
“I don’t mind if, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, a big company, a secure company, a very American company buy[s] it,” he said Monday, explaining that he told Nadella the app is “too big, too invasive” to be controlled by China. Trump noted that he believes Microsoft should try to purchase the entire app rather than just its U.S. operations.
“Who’s going to get the name?” Trump said he wondered about a partial sale. “The name is hot, the brand is hot. Who’s going to get the name? How do you do that if it’s owned by two different companies? My personal opinion was you’re probably better off buying the whole thing rather than buying 30 percent of it.”
The president also said that he wanted to see a “substantial portion” of TikTok’s acquisition cost “come into” the U.S. Treasury, though it is unclear what process he was referring to.
“We are making it possible for this deal to happen. Right now they don’t have any rights, unless we give it to them. If we give them the rights, it has to come into this country,” he said, likening the relationship to that of a landlord and tenant. “Without a lease, the tenant has nothing.”
“It’s a great asset, but it’s not a great asset in the United States unless they have the approval of the United States,” Trump said he indicated to Nadella.