Trump says he’ll back a proposed TikTok deal with Oracle, Walmart

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s given his “blessing” to a proposed deal between Oracle and Walmart for the U.S. operations of TikTok, the Chinese-owned app he targeted for national security and data privacy concerns.

Trump said the proposed deal will result in a new company likely to be based in Texas and under the control of U.S.-based Oracle and Walmart.

“I have given the deal my blessing,” he said. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK, too.”

Trump has been demanding that TikTok, a video app popular with younger people, be sold to a U.S. company or else its U.S. operations shut down. He’s also been targeting WeChat, another Chinese-owned app. The dispute over the two apps is the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

Just a day earlier, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would bar TikTok from U.S. app stores as of late Sunday. Further restrictions that would prevent TikTok from accessing essential internet services in the country would go into effect Nov. 12. The deal Trump signed off on would allow TikTok’s U.S. operations to keep functioning.

Commerce is imposing similar restrictions on WeChat, although all of those restrictions go into effect Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.

Earlier Saturday, WeChat users asked a U.S. judge to block the moves targeting the app, saying they would restrict free speech. WeChat is an all-in-one app with instant messaging, social media and other communication tools. The U.S. government argued that it is not restricting free speech because WeChat users still “are free to speak on alternative platforms that do not pose a national security threat.”

The aggressive tactics are part of Trump’s latest attempt to counter the influence of China, a rising economic superpower. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment.

China-backed hackers, meanwhile, have been blamed for data breaches of U.S. federal databases and the credit agency Equifax, and the Chinese government strictly limits what U.S. tech companies can do in China.

China’s ministry of commerce condemned the U.S. moves and urged it to stop what it called bullying behavior. It also said China may take “necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies.