Judge’s ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok

The decision by a federal judge Sunday to temporarily block a federal ban on TikTok marks another setback for President Trump’s efforts to quickly overhaul how the Chinese-owned platform does business in the U.S.

The ruling also creates more confusion around the wildly popular video app’s continued U.S. operations. Beijing-based ByteDance has yet to receive final approval from the federal government on its new business arrangement with Oracle and Walmart, and the pending deal does not appear to require the Chinese company to fully divest itself of TikTok.

All of the concerns around TikTok also feed into broader efforts by the Trump administration to clamp down on Chinese tech companies across various sectors as tensions between the two countries increase.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, cited larger concerns around China in a ruling unsealed Monday, writing that while the Trump administration “has provided ample evidence that China presents a significant national security threat,” the “specific evidence of the threat” posed by TikTok “remains less substantial.”

Brief reprieve: The order allows TikTok to operate normally in the U.S. at least until a full court hearing can be held. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The order by Nichols blocks a Commerce Department deadline that would have removed TikTok from app stores on Sept. 27, though Trump’s executive order from August does not prevent the app’s use on U.S. devices that have already downloaded TikTok. The judge’s order leaves in place a Nov. 12 deadline that would completely ban the use of TikTok in the U.S. if a deal is not reached between the Trump administration and the company.

The Nov. 12 date coincides with efforts by the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to come to a conclusion on TikTok and on Chinese communications app WeChat. Should a deal be reached, the court case will likely be dropped.

The court case is in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump in August that are aimed at forcing ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok due to national security concerns.

Brian Fleming, former counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department during the Obama and Trump administrations, told The Hill that he believed a deal will ultimately be reached allowing the app to continue operating.

“There is too much at stake for a deal not to be reached, and that goes from all sides of it,” said Fleming, who is a member of law firm Miller and Chevalier Chartered.