Trump says the US has ‘all the cards’ on a potential TikTok sale as he doubles down on demand that the government get a ‘very big’ cut

  • Trump defended his threat to condition the sale of TikTok to an American company on the US government receiving a “very big proportion” of the deal during a press conference Tuesday.
  • “We have all the cards, without us you can’t come into the United States,” Trump said.
  • Trump did not elaborate on how he plans to require the companies to pay up or which side the money would come from, but claimed that TikTok and Microsoft — which are in acquisition talks — both agreed that the US should receive a payout.
  • Trump threatened to ban the app from operating in the US last month, citing national security concerns, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do that.
  • China responded by calling the US a “rogue country” and arguing Trump’s proposal would be an “open robbery.”
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President Donald Trump doubled down on his demand that any sale of TikTok to an American company involve the US government receiving a “very big proportion.”

“We have all the cards, without us you can’t come into the United States,” Trump said during a press conference Tuesday.

“If they make a deal for TikTok, whether it’s the 30% in the United States or the whole company, I say, ‘it’s okay, but if you do that, we’re really making it possible because we’re letting you operate here,” Trump said, adding that “the United States Treasury would have to benefit also.”

Trump also claimed that both TikTok and Microsoft — which confirmed Sunday that it’s in talks to buy the viral video app developer — agreed with his condition of cutting the US government in on the deal. TikTok has reportedly been privately valued as high as $50 billion

“They understood that, and actually they agreed with me,” Trump said. “I think they agreed with me very much.”

A Microsoft spokesperson referred Business Insider to a blog post the company published Sunday saying that it plans to continue talks with TikTok following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and 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,” the post said.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.

The president didn’t offer any specifics as to how he would force TikTok, which is owned by Chinese-based parent company ByteDance, or a potential buyer to share deal proceeds with the US government.

Trump has the authority under a 1988 law to block foreign business deals pertaining to US companies if he considers the deals to be a national security threat, which he has used twice before to block deals involving firms from China and Singapore that were looking to acquire American companies.

Chinese state media called Trump’s proposal “open robbery” and a “smash and grab,” and accused him of “turning the once great America into a rogue country.”

Trump threatened last month to ban the app from operating in the US entirely, but it’s unclear what power he has to completely ban an app from the country. Trump said the ban was meant to punish China over the coronavirus, a motivation he reiterated Tuesday.

Trump and other politicians including Joe Biden have ratcheted up their rhetoric against TikTok in recent months, citing concerns that the app could share data with Beijing or spy on Americans. However, experts have pointed out that the app collects user data in similar ways to US-based competitors like Facebook.

Trump added that he thought Microsoft would be an acceptable buyer because of its “high-level” security clearances, which already allow it to do business with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies — though he said other companies are interested as well.

Paige Leskin contributed reporting for this story.

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