Trump denies that TikTok investor, a major GOP donor, convinced him to reverse position

Former President Donald Trump denied that a major GOP donor who also holds a significant stake in TikTok convinced him to reverse his support for forcing a divestiture by the social media platform’s China-based parent company.

Trump was asked by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin about accusations that Jeff Yass, a hedge fund manager who regularly donates to GOP candidates and holds a stake in TikTok, had convinced the former president to oppose legislation advancing quickly in the House of Representatives that would force the Beijing-headquartered company ByteDance to sell TikTok to a domestic owner. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon had alleged that Yass had paid off Trump to oppose the legislation.

“No, I didn’t,” Trump responded to the question of whether he had spoken with Yass about TikTok.

“I met with [Yass] very briefly,” Trump told Sorkin. “I made a speech, and I said hello to him.” Trump said his conversations with Yass and his wife were about education and school choice.

Trump said a 2020 executive order “could have banned TikTok” but that Congress’s intervention led to its failure. He also said he views TikTok and its connections to the Chinese Communist Party as a national security threat but that the rival platforms operated by Meta should also be viewed as an “enemy of the people.”

Trump referenced Meta and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, in his remarks Thursday as he expressed opposition to the anti-TikTok legislation — a reversal from his stance while in office.

“If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business,” Trump said on his network, Truth Social. “I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, to do better. They are a true Enemy of the People!” 

Trump’s 2020 order was meant to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to another company, with Microsoft and the cloud server host Oracle as the leading contenders. The measure was halted in court as an overextension of the president’s power. President Joe Biden’s administration eventually dropped the attempted restriction and shifted to the Commerce Department leading a review of TikTok’s business through an interdepartmental panel.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to approve Rep. Mike Gallagher’s (R-WI) Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act on Thursday, sending it to the House floor, where it is scheduled for a vote this week. The bill would restrict app stores from hosting applications whose parent companies are based in foreign countries of concern, such as China, with a specific focus on ByteDance. It would also allow the companies to sell their apps to American owners to avoid the ban. This policy would enable TikTok to either divest from ByteDance completely or risk the ban.

Gallagher has said his bill is not a ban but merely an attempt to sever TikTok from the influence of the Chinese Communist Party through divestment. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) has voiced support for the bill, and Biden said that he would sign the bill into law.

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