AG Barr not sold on TikTok deal, as company fights US ban

Trump's China hawks remain wary of TikTok

The debate inside the Trump Administration over the future of the TikTok-Oracle deal continues, as Attorney General William Barr remains unconvinced that a partnership between the short video app and the tech giant will safeguard user data from Chinese spying

A spokeswoman for Barr exclusively tells FOX Business that the AG "is still in the fact-gathering stage and has not reached a final decision or made a final recommendation to the president.”

Nicole Hester/ Arbor News via AP

Barr's concerns delayed administration approval of the deal earlier this week, as first reported by FOX Business, even as President Trump initially seemed to give it his blessing, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was prepared to give it the green light.

Mnuchin chairs the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) which must also approve any foreign transaction.

Without Barr's approval, Trump would be hard-pressed to sign off on the deal, people close to the matter say. Also voicing concerns that the partnership does not go far enough to ensure the security of user data from Chinese surveillance is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

Since the summer, the future of the popular short video app, which has 100 million monthly users in the U.S. alone, has become a geopolitical tug of war between the Trump administration and China.

Trump has said TikTok, owned by Chinese parents company ByteDance, is allowing its user data to be spied upon by the Communist Chinese Party.

His comments touched off a diplomatic and deal-making firestorm as the company desperately sought a suitor. Complicating matters was a move by the Chinese government to bar an outright sale to a U.S. company that scuttled a potential $20 billion-$30 billion purchase of the U.S. app by Microsoft. More recently, ByteDance sought a different route, attempting to enter into a "trusted partnership" with software giant Oracle.

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But after Trump seemingly approved the Oracle deal, Barr, Pompeo and some national security advisers said the Oracle arrangement does not meet national security concerns since TikTok’s parent would still maintain control of its algorithm and own a chunk of the new company.

The Trump Administration has given conflicting signals as to when it could possibly outright ban the app; the Commerce Department has set a date of Nov 12 for TikTok to find a U.S. buyer, but the president himself said he might ban the app from being used in the U.S. as early as next week.

Sensing the end of the app's usage in the U.S. might be near, TikTok on Wednesday filed a temporary injunction to prevent the administration’s stated plan to ban the app if no deal can be reached. If the deal is not approved.


Oracle declined to comment. TikTok declined to comment.

The TikTok-Oracle deal (Walmart would also be a stakeholder) is also facing criticism from government officials who say it smacks of crony capitalism since Trump publicly voiced his support for Oracle's control of the company.

Oracle’s chairman Larry Ellison is a major contributor to Trump’s campaign. In addition, Oracle was brought to the table two Bytedance investors: General Atlantic and Sequoia, both run by some of the top Silicon Valley Republicans.

Ellison was scheduled to appear on Mornings with Maria Wednesday but backed out due to a “scheduling conflict. Earlier this week he told Bartiromo that four out of the five TikTok board seats will be filled by Americans, and “the fifth one is likely going to be Japanese, Masa Son," Bartiromo reported.