- President Trump on Friday said that he would ban TikTok in the U.S., though he did not specify how he would go about doing so.
- There are a number of actions he could take, including forcing the sale of TikTok to an American company, though the president initially said he did not favor this idea.
- The announcement came just hours after it was reported that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok, and the two were close to finalizing a deal.
- After reports began to circulate that the deal had been put on hold, Microsoft announced in a blog post on Sunday that it was resuming talks after the company’s CEO spoke to Trump.
- On Monday, Trump confirmed that he had changed his mind about immediately banning TikTok and said that he would allow Mircosoft to continue negotiations for 45 days. If a deal is not struck by Microsoft or another American company in that time, TikTok will go out of business in the U.S.
Microsoft announced in a blog post Sunday that it was going to continue discussions to buy TikTok in the United States after CEO Satya Nadella spoke to President Donald Trump, who had previously said on Friday that he would ban the app’s use in the United States.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters.
While the president did not say how he would ban the app, there are several options at his disposal. One possibility would be for Trump to direct the Commerce Department to put TikTok on what’s called the “entity list” which would basically block U.S. companies from having any commercial ties with TikTok.
Another option would be for the president to use a law called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows him to essentially ban any foreign communications products that are seen as a threat to U.S. national security. That option could have a very extreme outcome.
“No American could work for them,” Stewart Baker, a former National Security Agency general counsel told The Washington Post. “The app store couldn’t make them available. American advertisers couldn’t pay them for ads. It would be economically devastating for them.”
A third potential action Trump could take would be to basically force TikTok’s owner ByteDance to sell the app or divest from its U.S. operations. That would be done through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) which recommends to the president if acquisitions should be rejected or reversed on national security grounds.
CFIUS, which is chaired by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, launched an investigation into ByteDance. According to The New York Times, a source said that as a result of the investigation, CFIUS recommended that Trump order ByteDance to divest from TikTok, which is essentially another way forcing them to sell it.
Trump on Friday said that he did not want a deal selling TikTok to a U.S. company, and when asked if he would use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, he said, “I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that.”
Trump’s announcement came just hours after reports that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok began to circulate. Following Trump’s announcement, the Wall Street Journal reported Microsoft had put those talks on hold.
In the Sunday blog post, Microsoft dispelled those rumors, while also publicly confirming for the first time that the company was in talks to buy the popular chinese-owned app.
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns,” Microsoft said in the post. “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.”
The company stated it will move quickly and complete the discussions “no later than September 15” and continue to dialogue with Trump and his Administration. Notably, the post also noted that the preliminary proposal would include a purchase of TikTok in the U.S. as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and that Microsoft “may invite other American investors” to be minority owners.
Addressing security concerns, Microsoft said it will add protections and ensure transparency and added that, in addition to other measures, the company will “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.”
To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred.”
A deal between Microsoft and TikTok—which would probably be valued somewhere in the billions—would be a huge win for both companies. For TikTok, even though it would be a concession to pressure from the Trump administration, it would still be better than the alternative.
It would allow them to keep the app in the U.S. rather than being banned and taking a huge hit in users right after it was banned in India.
The move would arguably be an even bigger win and a definite huge step for Microsoft. Unlike almost all other big tech companies that are its competitors, Microsoft does not have a social media platform or own a social media company.
If Microsoft did acquire TikTok, not only would it be acquiring its first social media company, it would also be acquiring one of the most popular and fastest-growing platforms. Rather than starting from scratch with a platform that may or may not take off, Microsoft would be diving in headfirst.
Immediately, it would become a major rival to huge platforms like the Facebook-owned Instagram, as well as the Google-owned YouTube, especially because so many tech companies, including Facebook, have been coming up with alternatives to TikTok.
In other words, it would give Microsoft a massive foothold in a consumer market it has not been a part of before and drastically change the landscape of Big Tech in a fundamental way.
Trump Administration Response
On Monday, Trump himself confirmed that TikTok would shut down on Sept. 15 unless it was purchased by Microsoft or another company. He also said that the Treasury Department would need to get a lot of money for the deal, though he did not explain how that would work legally.
According to the Times, Trump changed his mind after several phone calls, including ones from Nadella and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.), who voiced his support for the move on Twitter Sunday.
But there are still some high level members of the administration that believe more needs to be done to crack down on TikTok, including Trump’s top trade adviser Peter Navarro, who has taken a hardline stance on the matter.
“Every time you sign up for TikTok, all your information is potentially going right back to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said on Fox News Saturday,. “The Chinese military and the Chinese government, they can use this social these social media apps to steal your personal information, your business information.
“They use these social media apps to track you and surveil you and monitor your movements,” he continued. “This is a national security threat. So here’s what I would ask the American people. If they’re using TikTok and they hear the president is going to basically ban that, get on the Trump train with that, because that app you’re using, fun as it may be, is dangerous.”
Navarro doubled down on his remarks during an interview to CNN Monday, where he accused Microsoft of selling products to China that enable censorship and surveillance and suggested that Microsoft be required to divest from any business in China if it buys TikTok.
“I mean, whose software does the People[‘s] Liberation Army in China run on? Microsoft. Who — the Chinese Communist Party, whose software do they use to do their — all the things they do? It’s Microsoft,” he said.
“So, this is not a white hat company, right? It’s an American company. It’s clearly a multi-national company that’s made billions in China, that enables Chinese censorship through things like Bing and Skype.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also seemed to echo Navarro in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, where he took a hardline on China but also did not rule out a sale.
“These Chinese software companies doing business with the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat, there are countless more, as Peter Navarro said, are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party their national security apparatus,” he said.
“President Trump has said ‘enough’ and we’re gonna fix it. And so he will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” he continued.
When asked if the Microsoft deal would still pose risks, Pompeo responded, “I promise you the president, when he makes his decision, will make sure that everything we have done drives us as close to zero risk for the American people.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)
Josh Hawley Claims Ethics Complaint Against Him Is “Cancel Culture”
- Seven Democratic Senators filed an ethics complaint against Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz last week over their efforts in leading objections to the certification of the presidential election.
- The group urged the Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into whether Cruz and Hawley’s actions inspired violence or if there were any connections between the two Senators, their staffers, and the insurrectionists.
- Hawley filed a counter-complaint against the seven Democrats Monday, arguing that they were engaging in cancel culture.
- “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together,” he wrote.
Ethics Committee Complaints
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) filed a counter-complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee Monday alleging that a group of Democratic senators were engaging in “cancel culture” by calling for a recent investigation into his conduct.
Last week, seven Democratic senators, lead by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), filed an ethics complaint against Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) for leading the objection to the certification of the presidential election
In the complaint, the members accused Hawley and Cruz of legitimizing the false claims that prompted the insurrection in the first place and then continuing to “amplify the claims of fraud that they likely knew to be baseless and that had led to violence earlier that day,” by still voting to object.
The letter also noted that both Cruz and Hawley touted their plan to object to the certification as a way to collect more campaign donations. It argued that they continued to do so while the Capitol was literally under siege and even after the insurrection.
As a result, the seven Democrats urged the Ethics Committee to investigate whether there was any coordination between Hawley, Cruz, or their staffers and the insurrectionists, if they knew about the plans for the Jan. 6 rally, or if they took donations from people and organizations involved.
They also implored the committee to look into whether the actions of the two Senators actions inspired violence or “otherwise engaged in criminal conduct, or unethical or improper behavior.” If any evidence is found, the Democrats recommended the committee take “strong disciplinary action, including up to expulsion or censure.”
Hawley Speaks Out
In his counter-complaint, Hawley accused the Democrats of trampling on free speech in an attempt to “cancel” him.
“This line of thinking is, however, sadly consistent with the new woke-mob mentality that you should cancel anyone who disagrees with your views,” he wrote. “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together.”
Hawley also echoed that sentiment in a cover essay published by The New York Post on Monday, where claimed he has been “canceled” and “muzzled” over his attempts to stop the Democratic election of President Joe Biden from being certified.
Both the letter and the article attracted significant backlash online and in the media. In a particularly scathing critique, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon condemned Hawley for claiming he was being censored.
“No one has muzzled Josh Hawley. What happened to Josh Hawley isn’t cancel culture. It’s called consequences,” Lemon said. “That’s how the First Amendment works. Say whatever you want, but you gotta pay the price if you say something stupid, or you do something stupid or treasonous, or if you try to overturn a duly elected president, right?”
“Don’t fall for this, people,” he continued. “Think about the actions in the Capitol. Think about what happened, think about the people who died, think about the cops who were beaten by people. Think about all that.”
Dominion Files $1.3 Billion Defamation Suit Against Rudy Giuliani
- Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company, including that the manufacturer led an effort to flip votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
- The lawsuit alleges Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, spread the disinformation in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.
- It also links his false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at a rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
- This is the second suit Dominion has filed against a Trump campaign lawyer, and an attorney for the company said it might bring similar cases against pro-Trump media outlets or Trump himself.
Dominion Sues Giuliani
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company.
Dominion, which is one of the largest voting machine manufacturers in the U.S., became the main target for widespread election fraud conspiracies spread by Giuliani and other Trump allies. Those individuals falsely claimed with no evidence that Dominion machines, widely used in key battleground states, were flipping votes from Trump to President Joe Biden.
Now, the company claims that Giuliani and his allies “manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie,’ which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election.”
The lawsuit alleges that he did this in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast. It notes that Trump’s top lawyer “reportedly demanded $20,000 per day” for his legal services to the president, and arguing that he “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves.’”
The 107-page suit also specifically outlines more than 50 statements Giuliani made on Twitter, his podcast, to the conservative media, and during legislative hearings. Notably, the company points out that he never mentioned Dominion in court where he could face legal ramifications because he knew what he was claiming was false.
Despite that, Giuliani continued to push the false narrative, even after Dominion sent him a letter in December warning they were going to take legal action against him.
The lawsuit also links Giuliani’s false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at the rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
According to reports, even after the insurrection, he has still continued to spread those falsities as recently as last week.
“Dominion’s founder and employees have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered unprecedented and irreparable harm,” the court document states.
Other Defamation Cases
The case against Giuliani is not the first defamation suit Dominion has brought against Trump allies in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the company filed a similar claim against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell where it also sought $1.3 billion in damages over her false assertions that Dominion was part of a world-wide communist plot to rig the election.
Separately, one of Dominion’s top executives has also filed lawsuits against Giuliani, the Trump campaign, and several pro-Trump media outlets after he was forced into hiding due to conspiracies that he masterminded the plot to steal the election.
These cases could just be the start. According to NPR, an attorney for Dominion said it was possible that the company would file additional suits against pro-Trump media outlets — such as Fox News — and even potentially Trump himself.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Axios)
House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
- The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
- The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
- Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.
Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.
The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.
During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.
“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.”
McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”
While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.
Implications for Power-Sharing Deal
The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.
As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.
The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”
That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.
Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal.
But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.
In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.