Trump Says Microsoft Can Bid for TikTok

WASHINGTON — President Trump gave the go-ahead for Microsoft to pursue an acquisition of TikTok, in his first public comments about the popular Chinese-owned video app after he had threatened to ban it from the United States entirely.

Speaking at the White House on Monday, Mr. Trump said that TikTok would shut down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or another company purchased it. He added that the U.S. Treasury Department would need to receive a lot of money in return for the deal, without explaining how that would work.

His comments indicated at least a temporary reprieve for TikTok, which has come under scrutiny in Washington for its Chinese ownership. Trump administration officials and lawmakers of both parties have argued that the app, which is known for dance videos and other fun viral clips, could pose a national security threat by potentially giving the Chinese government access to vast quantities of American user data.

“This is not a white-hat company,” he said.

Mr. Trump appeared to take Mr. Navarro’s side on Friday, saying he did not favor a sale of TikTok and that he instead planned to ban the app entirely. But after a series of calls, including from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, Mr. Trump appeared to change his mind.

Several of Mr. Trump’s aides had warned that a ban could prompt an intense legal battle, as well as hurt the president’s popularity with younger Americans.

Although TikTok acquired something of an anti-Trump reputation in June, after some of its users boasted that they had registered for thousands of tickets to Mr. Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., to embarrass the campaign, pro-Trump content on the app is widespread. Some of its most popular users are conservatives, and the hashtag #conservative has 1.9 billion views.

In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft said it would “move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks,” and conclude the talks no later than Sept. 15.

Microsoft said the talks could result in its purchase of TikTok’s service in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, though it cautioned that the discussions were still “preliminary.” The company also said any deal would include transferring any and all user information to servers in the United States. Microsoft may also bring on other outside minority investors if a deal moves forward.

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