LIVE: Trump Celebrates TikTok Deal That Falls Short of His Key Demands | Happening Today

Date: 2020-09-21 18:22:26

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(Sept. 20) The TikTok video-sharing app was already under U.S. scrutiny when users pranked President Donald Trump’s campaign by pretending to reserve thousands of tickets to a June re-election rally in Oklahoma.

For Trump administration hardliners who wanted a tougher stance toward Beijing and viewed the Chinese-owned app as a national security threat, it was the perfect moment to pounce. The president, furious over the Covid-19 pandemic and embarrassed by empty seats at his campaign event, obliged.

Linking TikTok to Beijing’s handling of the raging coronavirus outbreak, Trump in July threatened to ban the app used by 100 million Americans unless China handed over control of the company, its algorithms and data to the U.S. Hearkening back to his New York real estate days, he also insisted the U.S. government get compensated in the process.

The deal Trump signed off on Saturday, hours before a Sept. 20 deadline, does almost none of that.

Trump said he wanted the U.S. part of the business owned by an American company. But China’s ByteDance Ltd. remains the majority shareholder in a new U.S. company that will include fresh investments by Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. in a future fundraising round.

Trump said he wanted the data to stay in American hands, for national security reasons. But the algorithm itself — the thing that makes TikTok TikTok — will still belong to ByteDance, so national security concerns remain, experts said.

And the government payout? That turned into a vaguely worded promise of $5 billion in new tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury. The company also said it would create a new “education initiative” to teach kids reading and math online. Still, Trump said he was satisfied.

“They’re going to be setting up a very large fund,” Trump said Saturday. “That’s their contribution that I’ve been asking for.”

The president did get a partial victory. He said the new company will have a Texas headquarters and promised to hire 25,000 Americans, although no breakdown or timeline for the hiring was provided. The board will be American-run. Most importantly, the move wraps up a crisis six weeks before the U.S. election, concluding one of the more extraordinary episodes in a presidency that has been filled with them.

“It’s a great deal for America,” Trump said Saturday. “It’ll be a brand new company, it will have nothing to do with any outside land, any outside country, it will have nothing to do with China, it’ll be totally secure, that’ll be part of the deal.”

Statements like those are causing skeptics to say Trump singled out TikTok for political reasons — either because of a perception its users dislike him, or to bludgeon China — and that he took an agreement that met few of his terms for the same reason. They add that the president’s direct involvement and his acceptance of a deal brokered by a key ally — Oracle founder Larry Ellison — reeks of political interference.

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