U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he does not mind if Microsoft Corp. buys the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok, but any purchase by an American company would have to be done by a Sept. 15 deadline.
The Republican president, who last week threatened to ban TikTok over national security concerns, said he had a great conversation with Microsoft’s chief executive and that it might be easier if the company buys all of TikTok rather than 30 per cent.
Trump’s comments confirmed a Reuters report Sunday that he had agreed to give China’s ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of TikTok to Microsoft.
Trump also said the U.S. Treasury would need to get a lot of money out of a TikTok deal, but it’s not clear how that would happen.
Microsoft said Sunday that CEO Satya Nadella had spoken to Trump and “is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.”
WATCH | Trump escalates tensions with China over TikTok:
Many prominent Republicans, including House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, issued statements in support of a Microsoft acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. operations. Some congressional aides are worried about a backlash by younger voters against the party if Trump banned TikTok, which has 100 million American users.
Microsoft and TikTok parent ByteDance gave the U.S. government a notice of intent to explore a preliminary proposal for Microsoft to purchase the TikTok service in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
‘This is about privacy’
U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also backed the sale, while a senior White House adviser raised concerns about a sale to Microsoft.
“A U.S. company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe,” Schumer said on Twitter, adding: “This is about privacy. With TikTok in China, it’s subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government.”
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro suggested on Monday that Microsoft could divest its holdings in China if it were to buy TikTok.
“So the question is, is Microsoft going to be compromised?” Navarro said in an interview with CNN. “Maybe Microsoft could divest its Chinese holdings?”
Navarro said the Chinese government and military use Microsoft software “to do all the things they do.”
U.S. officials have said TikTok poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in a blog post last week that the company was committed to following U.S. laws and was allowing experts to observe its moderation policies and examine the code that drives its algorithms.