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House to move forward with bill targeting TikTok as Trump opposes it| GuyWhoKnowsThings


House Republican leaders are moving forward this week with a planned vote on legislation that would force TikTok's Chinese owners to divest or face being banned in the United States, even after former President Donald J. Trump reversed course. course and declared himself firmly opposed to the attacks. the popular social media app he once promised to ban.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the majority leader, said Monday that the House would try to expedite passage of the bill under special procedures reserved for uncontroversial legislation, which require a two-thirds majority for passage. The approach reflected the bill's growing momentum on Capitol Hill during an election year in which members of both political parties are eager to demonstrate their willingness to get tough on China.

“We must ensure that the Chinese government cannot weaponize TikTok against American users and our government through data collection and propaganda,” Scalise said in his weekly preview of legislation to be considered in the House.

The 13-page bill is the product of the Chinese Communist Party's Select Committee, which has served as an island of bipartisanship in the polarized House. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously last week to advance legislation, which would remove TikTok from app stores in the United States by September 30, unless its parent company based in Beijing, ByteDance, sold its stake.

But Trump, who as president issued an executive order doing exactly that, is now openly opposed to the bill, a move that will test his ability to continue sinking bipartisan legislation in Congress since the election campaign.

On Monday, Trump offered a confusing explanation for his change of course, saying he did not want to alienate young voters or give more power to Facebook, which he sees as a mortal enemy.

In an interview on CNBC, Trump said he still considered TikTok a national security threat, but that banning it would make young people “go crazy.” He added that any action that damages the platform would benefit Facebook, which he called “the enemy of the people.”

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok who love it,” Trump said. “There are a lot of little kids on TikTok who would go crazy without it.”

“There are a lot of good things and a lot of bad things about TikTok,” he added, “but what I don't like is that without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people.” , along with many media outlets.”

It remains unclear whether Trump's reversal on the issue will erode the bill's broad base of support in the House, where a brewing fight over the legislation has become tense. Many lawmakers were infuriated last week when TikTok sent its users to flood Congress' phone lines with calls asking members not to close the platform.

“Trump's about-face on TikTok puts House Republicans in a very uncomfortable position because it forces them to choose between supporting Trump or taking on China,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic strategist. “Voters on both sides of the aisle don't trust China to abide by any meaningful set of rules and believe China is determined to get its way in whatever way it can, and that would apply to China's control over TikTok.”

Legislation is one of various efforts over the past year has aimed to restrict TikTok over concerns that ByteDance's relationship with Beijing poses national security risks, and President Biden has said he would sign it.

One of the bill's co-sponsors is Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 Republican, whose name is on every short list to be Trump's running mate and who is rarely out of step with the former president. .

As he marches toward the Republican nomination, Trump is exerting a stronger hand than at any time since he left office over his party's agenda in Congress. His outspoken opposition to pending TikTok legislation comes just weeks after he used his influence with Republicans in Congress to help stop a bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate that was touted as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to a conservative border security bill.

But unlike the immigration issue, the two parties are not divided on TikTok; Both see a political advantage in supporting policies that target China.

Still, Trump's advocacy against the bill appears to be having some effect. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on “Meet the Press” that he was “really conflicted” about the ban. In 2020, Graham defended Trump's executive action against the company, writing on social media that the president was “right to want to make sure the Chinese Communist Party does not own TikTok and, most importantly, all of your private data.” ”. .”

On Sunday, Graham said he did not yet know how he would vote on the bill if it reached the Senate. “I'm definitely conflicted,” he said.

And it's unclear what the bill's prospects would be in the Senate, where Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, has not committed to raising it.

In a rare show of bipartisanship in the House, top Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the China panel have used nearly identical language to describe the risks of TikTok.

“America's primary adversary does not have to control a dominant media platform in the United States,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman. His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, said TikTok “poses critical threats to our national security” as long as it is owned by ByteDance.

But after the bill passed a House committee last week, Trump lashed out at Truth Social, his social media platform, writing that “if you get rid of TikTok,” it will double Facebook's business. He said he didn't want Facebook to “do better.”

Trump was banned from Facebook the day after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, and reinstated early last year.

To back up his “enemy of the people” claim, Trump highlighted the subsidies that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made in 2020 to state and local election offices to assist in their administration of the vote during the pandemic. Trump suggested that Zuckerberg, whose website was part of Trump's campaign strategy in both 2016 and 2020, should face prison time for those donations.

On Monday, when asked about suspicions that he had been “bribed” to change his opinion on TikTok after a meeting with a major TikTok investor, billionaire Jeff Yass, Trump denied it. Mr. Trump supposedly praised Yass, a major Club for Growth donor, called him “fantastic,” and the group recently reached out to him after a months-long freeze.

Through Club for Growth, Yass has funded a major advocacy campaign in Washington to stop the TikTok ban. He and his allies have recruited several former Trump administration officials to help with the effort, including Tony Sayegh, who was a Treasury official, and Kellyanne Conwaywho was chief advisor to the president.

In the CNBC interview, Trump said he had not discussed TikTok with Yass in their meeting.

“No, I didn't,” Trump said, claiming it had been a brief meeting with Yass and his wife. “He never mentioned TikTok.”

Trump's criticism of the new legislation is surprising given his decision to restrict the company while in office. an executive order signed in August 2020 He said TikTok's data collection from its users “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information.” He added that TikTok could be used to spread disinformation that benefits Beijing.

“These risks are real,” the executive order said.

The Trump administration moved to block Apple and Google's app stores from offering TikTok over concerns about Chinese ownership of the app. But federal courts repeatedly failed to block Trump's TikTok ban from going into effect.

David McCabe and Maggie Haberman contributed with reports.


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