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Trump continues his reversal on TikTok, accusing Biden of wanting to ban it

Former president Donald Trump is digging in against a potential ban of TikTok moving through Congress — and seeking to blame President Biden for it — even though Trump sought to outlaw the social media application when he was in the White House.

“Just so everyone knows, especially the young people, Crooked Joe Biden is responsible for banning TikTok,” Trump said Monday in a post on his Truth Social platform, accusing Biden of waiting to help Facebook become more powerful and possibly meddle in elections to hurt Republicans.

Trump’s post came two days after the House, as part of a broad foreign aid package, passed legislation that would force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the application within about a year or face a national ban. Biden endorsed the package and last month said he would sign an earlier version of the TikTok legislation that the House passed.

In 2020, Trump issued an executive order to ban TikTok if its parent company did not sell it within 45 days. The order was later blocked in court.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said in July 2020.

But Trump’s public stance on the social media app swung in the other direction in recent months, with the former president arguing in March that a TikTok ban would only empower Facebook, which he has called “an enemy of the people.” Trump’s post on Monday appeared to be the first time he explicitly referenced Biden while railing against proposals to force a TikTok sale.

Asked for comment on Trump’s post, Biden’s reelection campaign referred to the White House, which denied it was working to shut down TikTok.

“We’ve been clear: we do not want to ban apps like TikTok,” White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson said in a statement. “What we want — and what the legislation we support would do — is ensure that TikTok becomes owned by an American company so that our and our children’s sensitive personal data stays here instead of going to China and so that Americans’ understandings and views can’t be manipulated by algorithms potentially controlled by the [People’s Republic of China].”

Trump accused Biden of wanting to shut down TikTok to “help his friends over at Facebook” become more powerful and “be able to continue to fight, perhaps illegally, the Republican Party.” Under the bill passed on a 360-58 vote by the House Saturday, TikTok’s owner would have up to 360 days to divest, meaning any ban is not likely to happen until after Election Day.

The chamber in March passed an earlier version of the bill trying to force a TikTok sale on a shorter timeline, but it has languished in the Senate. The latest proposal’s attachment to the foreign aid package could boost its chances in the upper chamber.

Trump’s reversal on TikTok raised questions about his relationship with Jeff Yass, a Republican megadonor from Pennsylvania who is also a TikTok investor. Trump, who is working to cultivate more heavyweight GOP donors as Biden builds a large fundraising advantage, met earlier this year with Yass but said afterward that they did not discuss TikTok.

A former top aide in Trump’s White House, Kellyanne Conway, is advocating for TikTok in Congress and has spoken to Trump about the importance of defending the application, The Washington Post reported last month. Conway is being paid by the Club for Growth, the conservative group that counts Yass as one of its biggest donors.

Trump has called TikTok a national security threat but also touted its popularity, saying in a March interview with CNBC that there is “a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok.”

“As you know, I was at a point where I could have gotten it done if I wanted to,” Trump said, suggesting he ultimately wanted to leave the matter to Congress. “I sort of said, ‘You guys decide, you make that decision,’ because it’s a tough decision to make. Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it.”

Cristiano Lima-Strong contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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