The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump says he has given his ‘blessing’ to TikTok deal but that final terms are still being negotiated

The president said he had approved the deal ‘in concept’ and that it would include the creation of a $5 billion education fund

TikTok chose Oracle as its "technology partner" in the U.S. on Sept. 13. While Trump has given his blessings to the deal, he may still ban it starting Nov. 12. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Bloomberg/The Washington Post)

President Trump said Saturday that he had given his “blessing” to a deal between Oracle and the popular video-sharing app TikTok, potentially averting a ban of the app in the United States after months of negotiation.

Importantly, Trump signaled that negotiations were ongoing and that the deal could still fall apart.

“I can say that I have given the deal my blessing,” Trump told reporters before departing for North Carolina. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s okay, too.”

Trump later added that he had “approved the deal in concept.”

U.S. bans WeChat, TikTok as China becomes major focus of election

The deal would give Oracle oversight of TikTok’s U.S. user data to satisfy government national security concerns stemming from TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance. But the deal is a big step back from the full sale of the app that Trump was initially pushing.

ByteDance would be likely to keep a big stake in a newly created TikTok entity, but U.S. firms including Oracle and Walmart would also invest. The deal would create a new TikTok Global entity that would be headquartered in the United States.

“We are pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the US Administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the US,” TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide said in a statement. She also said TikTok, which has 100 million American users, would “maintain and expand” its presence in the United States.

Walmart and Oracle combined would take up to a 20 percent stake in the new entity, McQuaide said. She did not immediately say whether ByteDance would keep a stake in the company.

Oracle said in a news release Saturday that it would take a 12.5 percent stake in the new entity and would become TikTok’s “secure cloud technology provider.” Walmart said it has “tentatively” agreed to take a 7.5 percent stake.

Trump said Saturday that the new entity would “most likely be incorporated in Texas” and that the firm would “be hiring at least 25,000 people.” He also said, “It will have nothing to do with any outside land, any outside country. It will have nothing to do with China.”

TikTok has its U.S. headquarters in Culver City, Calif., near Los Angeles.

The deal is still far from a sure thing: Beijing would need to sign off on a deal before it is completed.

On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would block new downloads of the TikTok app from U.S. app stores beginning Sunday, setting in stone the ban that Trump created when he signed an executive order in August, citing national security concerns. Under the Commerce rules, the app could be blocked from use in the United States entirely on Nov. 12.

On Saturday, the Commerce Department said it was delaying the app restrictions by one week, until Sept. 27.

TikTok proposes to add new U.S. headquarters and 20,000 jobs to win over Trump

Trump has tried for weeks to force TikTok to spin off its U.S. operations to prevent the app’s Chinese parent company from accessing U.S. data. TikTok has repeatedly insisted that it does not share U.S. user information with the Chinese government.

Trump said that the deal would include investment partnerships with Oracle and Walmart and that TikTok would “be making about a $5 billion contribution towards education. We’re going to be setting up a very large fund for the education of American youth.”

Walmart and Oracle said in a joint statement that TikTok Global “will pay more than 5 billion in new tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury.”

Walmart said its CEO Doug McMillon would fill one of the five board seats of the new entity.

Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley said final “approval of the transaction is subject to a closing with Oracle and Walmart and necessary documentation and conditions to be approved by” U.S. officials on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

TikTok has chosen Oracle as U.S. technology partner, rejecting Microsoft's bid

Trump didn’t provide more information about how the $5 billion fund would work, but said it was one of the conditions he had long demanded as part of any deal. Importantly, in their separate statements on Saturday, TikTok and Oracle made no mention of any such fund.

Trump said in August that the U.S. Treasury should collect a “very substantial” portion of any TikTok sale, despite there being no clear authority for the White House to demand such a payment.

He later backed down from that statement, saying this week that he found out the government was not allowed to do that.

He also added an important caveat, saying, “We’ll see whether or not it all happens, but conceptually I think it’s a great deal for America.”

Trump’s blessing comes despite concerns from multiple government agencies tasked with evaluating the national security risks of proceeding, said a former U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. The agencies, whose representatives sit on what is known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, still have concerns that Oracle has not yet addressed regarding data, source code and some disclosure of TikTok’s algorithm. The latter is the most significant element, as it determines what data users see.

In the past week, people close to the situation have told The Washington Post that the deal represents a significant step down from the full sale that the president was initially calling for. Instead, Oracle would become the “technology partner” of TikTok in the United States and secure its data in its own cloud in an attempt to satisfy the White House’s concerns.

Trump and other lawmakers have expressed concerns about the app for months, saying TikTok’s parent company opened it up to potentially exposing U.S. customer information to Beijing. Trump also targeted Chinese messaging app WeChat, which will be effectively banned in the United States beginning Monday.

Chinese officials responded angrily to the White House’s move on Friday to severely restrict the WeChat and TikTok apps, potentially putting U.S. companies such as Apple and Google in Beijing’s crosshairs.

China’s Commerce Ministry said Saturday that companies added to its “unreliable entities list” would be prohibited from investing in China or trading with the Chinese market — including imports and exports. The Chinese government has not yet named which companies would land on the list, but state media has long threatened that Apple and Google could be sanctioned if China’s relations with the United States continued to fray.

Jeanne Whalen, Ellen Nakashima and Gerry Shih contributed to this report.