WASHINGTON, Aug 3, 2020 (AFP) – US President Donald Trump gave popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok six weeks to sell its US operations to an American company, saying Monday it would be “out of business” otherwise, and that the government wanted a financial benefit from the deal.
“It’s got to be an American company… it’s got to be owned here,” Trump said. “We don’t want to have any problem with security.”
Trump said that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok, which has as many as one billion worldwide users who make quirky 60-second videos with its smartphone app.
But US officials say the app constitutes a national security risk because it could share millions of Americans’ personal data with Chinese intelligence.
Trump gave the company’s Chinese parent ByteDance until mid-September to strike a deal.
“I set a date of around September 15, at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States,” he said.
Whatever the price is, he said, “the United States should get a very large percentage of that price because we’re making it possible.”
Trump compared the demand for a piece of the pie to a landlord demanding under-the-table “key money” from a new tenant, a practice widely illegal including in New York, where the billionaire president built his real estate empire.
“TikTok is a big success, but a big portion of it is in the country,” he said. “I think it’s very fair.”
But Trump also threw a surprise new condition in any deal, saying the sale of TikTok’s US business would have to result in a significant payout to the US Treasury for initiating it.
“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,” Trump told reporters.