President Donald Trump has the authority to sign an agreement, but continued concerns from national security officials may fluctuate his decision. The deal remains on the table while discussions continue between administration officials and companies, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are confidential.
Tackling the remaining issues could pave the way for U.S. approval, the people said.
Officials, including Foreign Minister Michael Pompeo, are concerned that TikTok’s Chinese owner, following a potential transaction, ByteDance Ltd. could still access user data from its nearly 100 million users in America, the people said. Officials remain cautious about the proposed new ownership structure and how much influence China will have over the company.
Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin has reviewed the proposed deal. Attorney General William Barr was only briefed on the deal Wednesday and is reviewing it, according to a Justice Department official, who declined further comment. Barr spoke with Oracle executives Wednesday morning, said two people who know the situation. Pompeo had a conversation with company officials last week.
TikTok has emerged as a top target in Trump’s efforts to crack down on China before the November 3 election. The president is asking for his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in the polls and is trying to use his tough stance on Beijing as a selling point to voters.
The Department of Finance, Government, and Justice are all part of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, or Cfius, which reviews offers of national security implications. At a meeting Tuesday afternoon, officials raised concerns about a deal that would leave a majority stake in TikTok’s U.S. assets in ByteDance’s hands, with Oracle taking over a minority stake, the people said.
The panel is expected to meet again Wednesday to discuss the potential sale, according to one of the population.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said a decision on TikTok comes in “short order” during a briefing with journalists.
“We are deeply interested in protecting data and security for American citizens.”
Spokesmen for the Treasury and the state declined to comment. The Justice Department official did not immediately respond to a question about whether the attorney general had spoken to Oracle.
– With the help of Chris Strohm