President Trump on Monday said he approves Microsoft buying the Chinese social media platform TikTok, giving them or a “very American company” 45 days to negotiate the acquisition, and if a deal doesn’t go through, TikTok must end its U.S. operation on September 15.
“I don’t mind if, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, a big company, a secure company, very American company buy it,” Trump told reporters during a meeting at the White House with U.S. tech workers Monday afternoon. “I set a date at around September 15th, at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States. But if somebody, and whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else buys it, that’ll be interesting.”
Trump emphasized that whether Microsoft or another company closes a deal on TikTok, “a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.”
“I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is, that goes to whoever owns it. Because I guess it’s China, essentially, but more than anything else,” Trump said. “I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen. Right now, they don’t have any rights, unless we give it to them. So if we’re going to give them the rights, then it has to come into, it has to come into this country.”
Microsoft on Sunday said it was moving “quickly to pursue discussions” to buy the popular video app after speaking with Trump.
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” Microsoft said in a statement. “Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President.”
Trump confirmed he spoke to Microsoft CEO over the weekend on the potential acquisition and said they had a “great conversation.”
“We had a great conversation,” Trump said. “He called me to see whether or not, how I felt about it. And I said, ‘Look, it can’t be controlled, for security reasons, by China. Too big, too invasive, and it can’t be.’ It’s probably easier to buy the whole thing than to buy 30 percent of it. Because they say, ‘How do you do 30 percent? Who’s going to get the name?’ The name is hot; the brand is hot. And who’s going to get the name? How do you do that if it’s owned by two different companies?”
As discussions move forward, Microsoft said the plans of the new structure would add “world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections” and “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.”
“The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries,” Microsoft said. “Among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.”
On Friday, Trump threatened to ban the platform from operating in the United States over the weekend by the use of executive order.
“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters on Friday. “Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order.”
Trump’s announcement to ban the app comes weeks of administration officials floating the idea of taking action. Earlier in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited national security concerns as it was exploring actions to ban the Chinese app.
“We’re certainly looking at it,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News Laura Ingraham, adding that the administration was taking the issue “very seriously.” “With the respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right.”
TikTok fired back shortly after Trump announced plans to ban the app, denying that its Chinese owners were sharing user information with Beijing.
“TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform,” TikTok spokesperson said.