Trump says he doesn’t like what he’s heard of TikTok deal

September 16, 2020, 11:15 PM UTC

President Donald Trump said he’s not happy with what he’s heard about the terms of Oracle’s bid for the Chinese-owned video app TikTok but added he won’t be briefed on details until Thursday morning.

“Just conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that,” he said after a reporter told him that TikTok’s Chinese owner, Bytedance, would retain a majority of the company’s assets, with Oracle acquiring a minority stake.

“I’m not prepared to sign off on anything,” Trump said, adding that he needs to hear more details of the proposal.

Top Trump administration officials have raised concern that Oracle’s proposal for TikTok’s U.S. operations falls short of satisfying national-security concerns, according to people with the matter. Their position could sway whether the bid succeeds or fails, but Trump has the authority to approve or deny any deal.

The officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, worry that Bytedance could still access the data of around 100 million app users in the U.S. even if the transaction is approved.

Oracle would be responsible for storing user data in the U.S. under the proposed restructuring.

Oracle’s bid is still under consideration at the Committee for Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, which vets deals for national-security consideration. The panel, which includes the Departments of Treasury, State, Justice and other agencies, was set to meet Wednesday to discuss the potential sale, following a similar meeting on Tuesday.

TikTok has become a target for Trump as he seeks to punish China for the coronavirus pandemic ahead of the November presidential election. Trump has sought to play up his get-tough approach on China to contrast himself with Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who leads in the polls.

Trump spoke favorably of the Oracle proposal on Tuesday, saying that an agreement is “very close” and praising the company’s chairman and co-founder Larry Ellison as someone who has been “a terrific guy for a long time.”

Trump has repeatedly insisted that any sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations would have to include a substantial payment to the U.S. But on Wednesday, he told reporters that lawyers told him the U.S. has no authority to require that.

“Amazingly, I find that you’re not allowed to do that,” Trump said. “You’re not allowed to accept — I said, ‘What kind of a government — what kind of a thing is this?”’

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