WASHINGTON (CN) — Flouting the Trump administration’s Thursday deadline for it to see its U.S. operations sold off, TikTok is banking on D.C. Circuit intervention in a feud made murky by the outcome of the 2020 election.
The White House labels TikTok a national-security risk and has warned for months that it could be surveilling users. Under September executive orders from President Donald Trump, the company’s Chinese owner ByteDance was directed to sell off its multimillion-dollar TikTok operations based in the United States by Nov. 12.
TikTok and the China-based messaging app WeChat meanwhile have cast Trump’s orders as political retaliation rooted in his administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic since the disease broke out in Wuhan, China, and spread across the globe.
Owing to twin lawsuits in California and Washington — the latter case most recently led a Ninth Circuit panel to find that the social media apps pose no risk of imminent harm to the U.S. — both apps have remained available for download in the U.S.
TikTok upped the ante on Tuesday with a petition seeking D.C. Circuit review of Trump’s directive and the ongoing national-security probe its app faces.
Hours after the court had processed the filing Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Commerce said it would delay enforcement of the TikTok ban in compliance with one judge's Oct. 30 injunction.
"The department is complying with the terms of this order," it said in a statement, adding that the ban "has been enjoined and will not go into effect pending further legal developments."
Back in September, Trump had seemed to ease tensions when he tentatively condoned a ByteDance proposal for the American companies Oracle and Walmart to oversee TikTok, each holding a financial hold in the company.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency body housed in the Treasury Department, has been reviewing the deal. But TikTok this week said the administration has given it no guidance on whether the proposal is a go, the company said this week.
For its part, the Treasury Department said Wednesday that it remains focused on reaching a resolution on the purported national security risks.
“We have been clear with ByteDance regarding the steps necessary to achieve that resolution,” Treasury spokesperson Monica Crowley said in a statement. “We refer questions regarding the pending litigation to the Department of Justice.”
TikTok released a statement that the Thursday deadline left it “no choice but to file a petition in court to defend our rights and those of our more than 1,500 employees in the U.S.”
The company argued to the Washington appeals court that the government’s “attempted taking exceeds the authority granted” to it under federal law.
At most, the president can “prohibit a specified ‘covered transaction to address risks to national security created by that transaction,” TikTok wrote in its petition.
The company claims the administration has violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fifth Amendment, arguing the divestment order constitutes an “unlawful taking” of the company that “cannot be defended as a bona fide exercise of regulatory authority.”
Invoking the Supreme Court decision in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, TikTok argues the 1978 ruling supports the conclusion that the order is unconstitutional.
“The economic impact of the divestment is severe, it profoundly interferes with ByteDance’s reasonable investment-backed expectations, and it does not actually further the purported purpose of protecting national security,” the petition states.
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