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TikTok’s fate to go down to the wire; judge will rule before midnight

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TikTok’s fate to go down to the wire; judge will rule before midnight

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TikTok will be gone from app stores tomorrow morning unless a federal judge acts to block the Trump administration’s ban on the app before midnight tonight.

Judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for DC said today that he will determine whether to grant or reject TikTok’s request for an injunction on the ban before the deadline hits at the stroke of 12.

In a hearing on Thursday, Nichols gave the administration until Friday afternoon either to delay or defend the ban. The administration chose to file a response defending the ban but did so under seal, so the filings are not available to the public.

The judge set a hearing on the matter for 9:30 today. After spending more than 90 minutes Sunday morning listening to attorneys for both sides, Nichols said he would rule later in the day.

During the hearing, an attorney representing TikTok called the proposed ban “irrational” and “unprecedented,” asking, “How does it make sense to impose this app store ban tonight when there are negotiations underway that might make it unnecessary?”

President Donald Trump banned TikTok and another China-based app, WeChat, in a pair of executive orders he signed on August 6. The executive orders declared the apps to be a “national emergency” and said that certain “transactions” would be prohibited, but the orders did not specify what those transactions might be until September 18, about 48 hours before the bans were first scheduled to take effect.

TikTok filed its request for an injunction (PDF) a few hours after the Commerce Department described what form the ban would take. Last weekend, the administration granted a one-week reprieve on the ban, extending the deadline to midnight (EDT) tonight, after the president gave his conditional “blessing” to a proposed deal between TikTok and Oracle.

The proposed ban would become unnecessary if China, the US Department of the Treasury, and the White House all agree to approve Oracle’s proposed investment in TikTok. Oracle is not offering to buy TikTok in that deal, but instead would take over cloud hosting services as TikTok’s “trusted technology partner” and take a 12.5-percent stake in a newly formed spinoff company, TikTok Global.

The fate of that transaction, however, is very much unknown. Oracle and ByteDance don’t seem to agree on who will hold majority control of the new company after the proposed deal is complete. Trump has threatened to withdraw his approval if he does not find that US, rather than Chinese, investors end up with sufficient control of TikTok. Editorials in several Chinese state-run media outlets over the past week have also expressed opposition to the transaction, calling it a “dirty and underhanded trick.”

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