The Trump administration “likely” exceeded its legal authority with its order to ban TikTok downloads in the U.S. and impose other restrictions on the video-sharing platform, a federal judge wrote in a legal opinion disclosed Monday.
Unpacking the decision: U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols said that while President Donald Trump has “broad” authority to declare national emergencies and prohibit business dealings with foreign entities that pose a national security risk, TikTok appears to be exempt from such action as a “personal communication” service that oversees “informational materials.”
The Trump administration is seeking to restrict TikTok’s U.S. operations in part by using the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows the president to set limits on foreign transactions during a declared national emergency. Trump invoked the law in his August executive orders targeting TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance.
Nichols, a Trump appointee, granted TikTok’s request to halt administration’s proposed download ban late Sunday, hours before it was set to take effect. While the ruling was made public Sunday evening, his opinion explaining the decision was not disclosed until Monday.
The Commerce Department said in a statement Sunday that while the federal government “will comply with the injunction,” they intend to “vigorously defend” Trump’s executive orders. TikTok hailed the ruling in a statement, adding, “We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees.”
The battle rages on: The legal teams for TikTok and the Trump administration are expected to meet by no later than Wednesday to propose next steps in the case, which will weigh whether the administration violated the company’s rights through its executive orders. The courtroom battle is playing out as ByteDance and TikTok negotiate a deal to sell stakes in the app to two U.S companies, Oracle and Walmart, in a bid to satisfy the Trump administration’s national security concerns.
The Trump administration has expressed fear that U.S. consumer data on TikTok could fall into the hands of Chinese government officials due to its parent company’s roots in Beijing. TikTok has maintained it does not and would not share data with the Chinese government.