TikTok’s fate was shaped by a ‘knockdown, drag-out’ Oval Office brawl

In front of Trump, trade adviser Peter Navarro and other aides late last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin began arguing that the Chinese-owned video-sharing service TikTok should be sold to a U.S. company. Mnuchin had talked several times to Microsoft’s senior leaders and was confident that he had rallied support within the administration for a sale to the tech giant on national security grounds.

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Navarro pushed back, demanding an outright ban of TikTok, while accusing Mnuchin of being soft on China, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions freely. The treasury secretary appeared taken aback, they said…

Behind the scenes, an enormous amount of scrambling has happened in response to each twist and turn. And an executive order signed by the president Thursday night while on Air Force One — which would essentially shutter the U.S. operation of TikTok in 45 days unless it was sold — has sown more confusion about the future of one of the fastest-growing social media start-ups in the world. Few on the East or West coasts knew the order was coming.

The chaotic approach dates back to Trump’s days as a business executive, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a nonprofit, conservative issue advocacy group.

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