This is an open robbery. The world is watching and God is watching that how President Trump is turning the once great America into a rogue country. pic.twitter.com/FaL3MkwsYe
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) August 4, 2020
Forcing the sale of a company under threat of destroying it absolutely is mafia-style tactics. I’m not even against mafia-style tactics as a rule, but I will tell you this: watching Donald Trump use the full force of the US government against a Chinese social media company while he is at the same time outright refusing to do anything about his own supporters being banned on American social media platforms is so enraging that it is difficult to even put into words.
Imagine that right in the middle of the biggest drama ever with these American companies – they are openly censoring the president himself, his son, all of his supporters – Trump starts making it priority number one to attack a benign Chinese app.
The people want to win this election. Donald Trump doesn’t seem to give a shit.
TikTok’s roller-coaster ride in the US continued Monday as President Donald Trump said he would approve the video-sharing app’s sale to Microsoft only if the US government gets a cut, a condition that one expert called a “mafia” deal.
The increased scrutiny into TikTok culminated on Friday when Trump threatened to ban the app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, from operating in the US due to a “national security risk”. The negotiation between the two companies was then halted.
But after a weekend phone call with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Trump reversed his stance and reportedly gave the two companies 45 days to close the deal. It was confirmed by Microsoft on Sunday, which said in a statement it “will move quickly to pursue discussions” with ByteDance and complete the talks “no later than” Sept 15.
The president on Monday added a condition to the potential purchase: Microsoft should buy TikTok outright, and the US Treasury Department should be paid because it is the government that will have made the deal possible.
“It’s a little bit like the landlord/tenant; without a lease the tenant has nothing, so they pay what’s called ‘key money,’ or they pay something,” Trump told reporters in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Monday. “But the United States should be reimbursed or should be paid a substantial amount of money, because without the United States, they don’t have anything, at least having to do with the 30 percent.”
The president also gave the two companies a deadline of Sept 15 to complete the deal, or the app will be banned in the US. Investors of the privately owned ByteDance valued TikTok at $50 billion, according to a Reuters report last week.
The legal basis of Trump’s requirement that some of the money from the deal go to the US Treasury was immediately questioned by experts.
“This is quite unusual; this is out of the norm,” Gene Kimmelman, a former chief counsel for the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, told CNN. “It’s actually quite hard to understand what the president is actually talking about here. … It’s not unheard of for transactions to have broader geopolitical implications between countries, but it’s quite remarkable to think about some kind of money being on the table in connection with a transaction,” said Kimmelman, a senior adviser to the policy group Public Knowledge.
Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said Trump’s “extortion threat” is a “mafia business model”.
“Trump’s full explanation of why Treasury should get a ‘cut’ of a Microsoft/TikTok deal is, somehow, even more grotesque and shameless than I had anticipated,” said Sanchez.
“As with his tariff policy, there doesn’t seem to be any consideration of whether this sets a dangerous precedent for other countries to engage in similar pretextual protectionism against us, or how whimsically compelling divestment might affect international investment,” he said.
Samm Sacks, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, also warned that shutting down the app altogether would set “a dangerous precedent in which the US government can blacklist companies based on country of origin using blanket national security as justification”.
The Trump administration has been scrutinizing TikTok for several months, claiming that the platform shares the data of American users with the Chinese government. The company has repeatedly denied the accusations, maintaining that all the users’ information is stored in the US.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday that Trump will take action shortly on Chinese software companies, while making a claim that these companies feed data directly to the Chinese government and pose a risk to US national security.
We commented yesterday on Mike Pompeo’s cartoonish claims, which do not make any kind of basic, logical sense at all.
Just so you understand what is happening here, because it is kind of confusing:
- TikTok is a Chinese company that operates primarily in the United States.
- Their US business is a separate entity, set up as a US corporation.
- Banning the app from the Google and Apple App stores would make the US company worthless.
- Trump is giving the company the option to sell the entire US company to Microsoft, rather than to be shut down.
It’s a little bit like telling a mother, “we can kill your child now, or you can sell her to us for sex slavery purposes.”
It’s not normal behavior.
Again, I’m not against using mafia-style tactics, but this is all just completely nuts, and it does nothing to benefit the people of the United States. What would benefit the people of this country is if Trump started using this kind of extra-legal bullying against the American social media companies. These companies are bullying the US population in an endless number of ways, including spying on us and sending that data to the US government to be used in their social simulations.
An even more immediate problem is that US social media companies are censoring anyone who supports Donald Trump as a way to change the outcome of the upcoming election. This is a very, very serious problem, and it is clearly illegal. But all Trump can do on that front is whine. When it comes to the Chinese, all of a sudden he has all of these crazy powers of action.
It’s really disgusting.
I am not worried about China. What I am worried about is the Democrats who are getting ready to steal an election and turn America into the killing fields.