TikTok's US fate reportedly rests on a brawl between two senior White House advisers

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images/ReutersUS Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left), and White House trade policy adviser Peter Navarro.
  • The confused messages from the Trump administration about the fate of ByteDance-owned TikTok may stem from a disagreement between two senior White House advisers.
  • According to The Washington Post, trade adviser Peter Navarro pushed for an outright ban of TikTok, while Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wanted a sale.
  • The pair ended up in a “shouting match” in front of President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in late July, according to the report.
  • President Trump has told TikTok, whose parent company is Chinese, that it must sell its US business to an American tech firm or investors, or face a ban from mid-September.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Donald Trump’s top advisers reportedly can’t agree on what should happen to TikTok, whose fate in the US currently hangs in the balance.

According to a Washington Post report, citing anonymous witnesses, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade adviser Peter Navarro had a “shouting match” in front of President Trump in the Oval Office in late July over the short video app’s future.

Navarro reportedly pushed for a full ban on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese startup ByteDance, and accused Mnuchin of being too gentle on China.

Mnuchin wanted TikTok’s business to be sold to Microsoft or another US bidder – he has already held talks with Microsoft, the report said.

This “knockdown” brawl may partially explain some of the confused messages from the Trump administration on TikTok over the last month.

The administration signalled in July that it might ban the app. However, news emerged at the beginning of August that Microsoft might buy parts of TikTok’s business, sealing the app off from its Chinese owners. On the same day, Trump said that he would ban TikTok altogether. Microsoft then said it had held talks with Trump and would continue discussions with TikTok.

Trump upped the pressure again, issuing an executive order on August 7 that banned US individuals or companies from doing business with TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance. The order takes effect on September 20, effectively giving ByteDance a deadline to negotiate with Microsoft or other bidders.

It isn’t clear that Microsoft will successfully acquire TikTok’s business. Other bidders reportedly interested include existing ByteDance backer Sequoia Capital and Twitter.

TikTok, meanwhile, has threatened to sue the US over the executive order, saying the Trump administration had directly interfered with negotiations between private businesses.

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