White House says unclear whether U.S. government will get cut of TikTok sale

FILE PHOTO: China and U.S. flags are seen near a TikTok logo in this illustration picture taken July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House officials on Tuesday could not say how the U.S. government would receive a portion of the proceeds from any sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations, one day after President Donald Trump called for a cut of the money.

“There’s no specific blueprint here,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Fox Business Network on Tuesday. “It may be that the president was thinking, because the Treasury has had to do so much work on this, there are a lot of options here. I’m not sure it’s a specific concept that will be followed through….Regarding fees or anything like that, all that remains to be seen.”

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, speaking to reporters at a separate briefing, also gave no other details and said she did not want to get ahead of Trump on the issue. She reiterated that the United States planned to take some action on Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, in coming days but gave no details. She twice declined to say how legally the United States could take a cut of the sales proceed.

On Monday, Trump said he would ban the popular Chinese-owned short-video app on Sept. 15 without a sale to another company outside of China. Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) has said it is in talks to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations.

Experts have said the U.S. government generally does not have the authority to take a cut of private business sales. But Trump, a real estate developer and former reality television star who has touted his “art of the deal,” on Monday said “a very substantial portion” of any TikTok sale must go to the U.S. Treasury “because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.”

Kudlow told Fox Business Network that such a provision may not be “a key stipulation.”

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Shepardson; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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