September 21, 2020

President Trump gave approval Saturday for a deal in which China's ByteDance would partner with Oracle and Walmart to create a U.S. TikTok spinoff that would satisfy his security demands. ByteDance said Monday it wanted to clarify some "groundless rumors" about the deal, asserting that the Beijing company would control 80 percent of a wholly owned subsidiary, TikTok Global, after a public offering. Oracle would own a 12.5 percent stake and Walmart the other 7.5 percent.

U.S. backers of the deal argue that because U.S. investors own 41 percent of ByteDance, the 20 percent owned by Walmart and Oracle would give U.S. investors and companies a majority stake in the TikTok Global. Oracle and Walmart also said Americans would hold four of the five seats on the board of directors. ByteDance said Monday that one seat would go to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon but the other four would stay with current directors, including ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming.

Another "rumor" ByteDance sought to shoot down was Trump's assertion that the Chinese company would pay the U.S. $5 billion to create an education fund to teach American children "the real history of our country." ByteDance said the $5 billion figure was just an estimate of federal taxes it would pay over several years if its new subsidiary proved successful. Trump has said he wanted the buyers to pay the White House "key money" for facilitating the deal, but White House lawyers said that would violate the law.

ByteDance also said it will retain full control of TikTok's prized algorithms and source code, and Oracle can review the code for security threats but only in controlled locations. Trump's Aughst executive order giving ByteDance 90 days to sell to a U.S. company cited concerns that the personal data of Americans could be passed on to China's government. A senior Trump campaign official tells The Wall Street Journal that TikTok's Washington lobbyists had argued to Trump's campaign that banning a social media juggernaut with 100 million users, "including many who are of voting age and live in battleground states such as Florida," would be bad politics. Peter Weber

September 13, 2020

Microsoft announced on Sunday that the Chinese company ByteDance rejected its offer to purchase TikTok's U.S. operations.

In early August, President Trump issued an executive order saying TikTok, a popular video-sharing app, was a national security risk, and ByteDance had until mid-September to sell off its U.S. operations or the app would be banned. A person with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press ByteDance chose Oracle, the only other publicly known bidder, to buy the app. Oracle has close ties to Trump, with Larry Ellison, its co-founder and chairman, a supporter who has hosted a fundraiser for the president.

In a statement, Microsoft said it was "confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok's users, while protecting national security interests." Microsoft had previously said it would have to take over TikTok's algorithms and computer source code in order to protect the privacy of U.S. users and keep the Chinese government from using the app to spread disinformation. In response, the Chinese government issued new regulations so TikTok would have to get permission from Beijing before transferring its technology to a foreign buyer. Catherine Garcia

August 4, 2020

President Trump signaled Monday that he is okay with Microsoft purchasing the U.S. part of TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media company he has threatened to ban, but it will cost ... someone. First, he told reporters at the White House that if Microsoft or another U.S. company purchases TikTok by his Sept. 15 deadline, "a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the treasury of the United States." Why? "The United States should be reimbursed or paid because without the United States they don't have anything," Trump said enigmatically.

"It's a little bit like the landlord-tenant," Trump explained. "Without a lease, the tenant has nothing. So they pay what's called key money or they pay something." Later Monday, Trump elaborated, arguing the U.S. "should get a very large percentage of that price," and "it would come from the sale — whatever the number is, it would come from the sale." This was an idea "nobody else would be thinking about but me," Trump said. "But that's the way I think."

"It was unclear under what authority the White House could demand such a payment," The Washington Post noted, and the Treasury Department and White House both declined to comment on Trump's proposal.

Any U.S. company that purchased TikTok would have to first get approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CIFUS), an interagency group that reviews proposed takeovers involving a foreign company, and lawyers familiar with CIFUS reviews told the Post the U.S. Treasury does sometime collect fees for its work, but only up to $300,000.

Microsoft said Sunday night that 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," but that suggested the U.S. would benefit from future tax revenue. What Trump is demanding sounds more like muscling in for a cut of the deal. Luckily, everyone has lawyers. Peter Weber

August 3, 2020

President Trump addressed the TikTok sale saga again Monday, and his most recent comments seemingly lend credence to speculation that his previous threat to ban the popular social media app was a negotiation tactic to force its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to fully divest its U.S. operations. To be clear, Trump doubled down on the threat, but this time he affirmed he would be okay with Microsoft buying the app and set a deadline for a potential sale, whereas he previously suggested a ban was imminent.

"I don't mind whether it's Microsoft or someone else, a big company, a secure company, a very American company buys it," Trump said. "It'll close down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the Treasury of the United States gets a lot of money."

Microsoft has confirmed it's working on a deal, but still has some negotiating to do. The Trump administration has scrutinized TikTok lately because of concerns that ByteDance is harboring American users' data and could potentially hand it over to the Chinese government down the line amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

August 2, 2020

In a statement released Sunday night, Microsoft said it will continue talks to buy the popular video app TikTok, following a discussion between CEO Satya Nadella and President Trump.

TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, and Microsoft would purchase the service in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

On Friday, Trump said he was considering banning the app due to national security concerns, and Microsoft said in its statement the company "fully appreciates the importance of addressing the president's concerns" and 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 it expects to finish negotiations by Sept. 15, and if a deal is reached, will ensure that all data on American users is transferred to and stays in the United States, Reuters reports. Catherine Garcia

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