Trump said “the Chinese” or an American buyer should pay the Treasury. Microsoft said it is negotiating to buy TikTok from ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns the video-sharing app popular with young people.
Trump threatened last week to issue an executive order shutting down TikTok, citing “security” concerns. He said earlier Monday that TikTok would have to close by Sept. 15 unless it sells its American operations to a U.S. company.
“The United States should get a very large percentage of that price because we’re making it possible,” Trump said at a news conference. “Whatever the number is, it would come from the sale, which nobody else would be thinking about but me. But that’s the way I think. And I think it’s very fair,” he added. (Check out the video above.)
“Right now they don’t have any rights unless we give it to them. So if we’re going to give them the rights, then ... it has to come into this country,” Trump said explaining his demand. “It’s a great asset, but it’s not a great asset in the United States unless they have approval in the United States.”
It would be unprecedented for the U.S. government to take a cut of a private transaction involving an American company in which it has no investment, financial experts noted.
“It is completely unorthodox for a president to propose that the U.S. take a cut of a business deal, especially a deal that he has orchestrated,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The Wall Street Journal. “The idea also is probably illegal and unethical,” he added.
Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, called the president’s demand an “extension of Trump’s generalized view that he can micromanage the industrial sphere.” He said it reminded him of “medieval kings who oversaw salt monopolies” and would say: “If you wanted to mine some salt, you put money into the royal Treasury.”
Microsoft declined to comment.
A Microsoft blog post Sunday noted that that the company was hoping to complete a deal to buy TikTok’s operations in the U.S., as well as in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, by Sept. 15. Such a deal would likely be worth billions of dollars, according to the Journal.
The post noted that Microsoft is committed to “providing proper economic benefits to the U.S., including the United States Treasury.” But that referred to tax revenue and job creation, a source told Bloomberg. Trump, however, noted he had spoken to Microsoft.
Perhaps not so coincidentally to Trump’s TikTok crackdown is that many users of the video app have forged a strong anti-Trump identity.
TikTok users in June flooded the Trump campaign with requests for seat reservations at the president’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally ― which they didn’t use ― and proudly took a bow for the thousands of empty seats on the big day.