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TikTok and the lollipop Washington wants to take away



What to do with Tik Tok hit home even with the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, as he stood next to the American president, Joe Biden, last Friday afternoon for their joint media conference in Ottawa Biden’s visit, including an address to the Canadian parliament

Question to the PM: “Knowing what you know, are you comfortable with the idea of your children or family members using TikTok?”

“I am obviously concerned with their privacy and their security, which is why I’m glad that on their phones — that happen to be issued by the government — they no longer access TikTok.  (Laughter.)  That was a big frustration for them.  “Really?  This applies to us too, Dad?”  “Yes, I just did that.”  (Laughter.)

Trudeau says
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. President Joe Biden, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 24, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

It’s no laughing matter in Washington. 

Tik Tok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew was monstered by the House of Representative Energy and Commerce  Committee last week.  He was bludgeoned for five hours, solo at the witness table while a bipartisan howl raged against Tik Tok, its ownership, its practices, its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and its vast influence in the United States.

“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values,” said committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican of Washington .

“TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path for more control, more surveillance and more manipulation. Your platform should be banned.”

“I still believe that the Beijing Communist government will still control and influence what you do,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat.

Politico’s reporter was asked if there was any support for Chew or Tik Tok. “No. There was no real support. That’s why they brought him in, to yell at him and show they’re strong on China.”

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, cosponsor of legislation with the best chance of being enacted by Congress this year, said this about the hearing, and the core issue posed by the Tik Tok: “I kind of feel for the guy. Because [Chew] can’t rebut the fact that TikTok is owned by ByteDance, ByteDance is a Chinese company, Chinese law as of 2017 says the first obligation of any Chinese company is not shareholders or customers, it’s the Communist Party… At any point in time, that data can be asked for. And there are plenty of examples where it appears that it may have been already vulnerable. On top of that, you’ve got the ability for this incredibly powerful tool to have content manipulation.”

This was exact issue presented by Huawei, owned by the Chinese government, that under China’s national security law that government has the right to full access to all the data held by the company. 

This is why Huawei was banned from being as telecoms supplier in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan and the US, and with 5G restrictions in the UK.

In recent weeks, the Biden Administration has been moving to a position of requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok to another US company, or face a ban.

In response, TikTok has developed “Project Texas”, where all the data generated in the US would be secured on US company Oracle servers in Texas. “The bottom line is this: American data is stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel,” Chew said. But that would leave TikTok under Chinese government control over the data it obtains.  And China is not budging.  A Chinese Commerce Ministry spokeswoman said last week that China would “firmly oppose” the forced sale TikTok, and that this would “seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the United States.”

Many members of the House and Senate want to ban TikTok – now.  But previous efforts to limit TikTok initiated under President Trump to ban Tik Tok if it was not sold were never concluded.  

A US government ban or forced divestiture of  Tik Tok  poses both First Amendment – free speech –  and due process of law issues.  There has not yet been an official finding of sufficient authority and weight to support such a radical action by the government.

What has been put in place are bans on Tik Tok on government-issued phones.

This is why Senator Warner’s legislation could prove crucial. 

In Washington, if you can’t solve a problem – get a process to work the problem.  The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act would give the Department of Commerce  the authority to evaluate and block technology deals involving companies from six “foreign adversary” countries, including China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.  

By expanding the scope of technologies examined through a thorough process that can document and describe the urgency of addressing the threats the Tik Tok app poses, the key to locking in a ban or sale of Tik Tok can be found and used.

TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew looks on as he testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing entitled “TikTok: How Congress can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms,” as lawmakers scrutinize the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Last week’s Tik Tok hearing showed the Cold War with China is deepening.  The bipartisan roar of anger is growing.

But there is a real political disconnect between the rage building in Washington and the unhappiness of Trudeau’s children at losing Tik Tok . 

There are 150 million Americans – half the population – that use Tik Tok.  It is enormously influential.  Do lawmakers really think they can take Tik Tok away – without any political repercussions?  

You know what happens when you take a lollipop away from a child?  He or she starts screaming.  Take Tik Tok away and America’s Tik Tok users may start screaming – with their votes in 2024.

This is why the most likely outcome, aside from nothing being done, is passage of the Warner legislation and a forced sale of Tik Tok to a US company.

Stay tuned.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Trump’s campaign tactic – debase and disgrace the legal process



Donald Trump, former president of the United States, hated Arraignment Day I in Manhattan two months ago, the first time a former president had been criminally charged. 

Trump was being forced against his will into a proceeding he had utter contempt for.  He was being arrested and fingerprinted and photographed under an indictment under the jurisdiction of Manhattan in New York City for allegations of hush money payments and fraudulent bookkeeping practices to conceal criminal activity. Trump heard the charges read out against him and he entered a plea of not guilty.

Trump had a terrible day. Trump wore a scowl throughout. His countenance was fearsome.  What Trump hated most about his arraignment in New York is that he had to sit at a table with his counsel side by side with him — equal to him — and with the judge above him looking down on him. Trump could not control the discussion and could not interrupt to make his points.

Trump was subordinate to the judge. He was subordinate to no one as president.

Arraignment Day II

Arraignment Day II in Miami will be worse from Trump, even more stressful.  The charges are substantially more serious:  the alleged violation of federal criminal statutes involving the alleged mishandling and illegal possession of classified documents, lying to legal authorities, and obstruction of justice.  Potential penalties run to years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

Trump throughout his business life had always crafted his affairs to avoid being a defendant. But in his term in office, he was caught up in it big time. He was a defendant in two impeachment trials – again, unprecedented events – and left office in disgrace.

But Trump does not feel disgraced. He never does.  Trump does not have a reverse gear.  He never retreats.  Never admits. Never concedes. Never yields.  Trump is never embarrassed. Trump never feels ashamed. When something goes wrong, it is always the fault of someone else.

And Trump never repents.

Trump can feel this way because Trump is waging war on behalf of his armies in “the final battle” for the future of the county. In his first, fiery post-indictment speech in Georgia, Trump said, “They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people.  In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you … “Either we have a Deep State, or we have a Democracy…Either the Deep State destroys America, or WE destroy the Deep State.”

It is a powerful formulation, and his true believers love it.

Hours later, In North Carolina, Trump mainlined his distilled message for the Republican crowd:

“We are a failing nation. We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement.

It’s totally corrupt and we cannot let it happen.

This is the final battle.

With you at my side we will demolish the Deep State.

We will expel the warmongers from our government.

We will drive out the globalists.

We will cast out the communists.

We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country.

We will roll out the fake news media.

We will defeat Joe Bide and we will liberate America from those villains once and for all.”

Any lesser mortal would be staggered by these events.  Any other presidential candidate would be driven from the race.  But not Trump.

Debase and disgrace

Trump is using the same playbook today as he successfully triggered after being charged in New York:  debase and disgrace the legal process by terming it completely political.  Trump said the federal indictment is “election interference at the highest level.”

Almost every other Republican running for president has adopted this line, insulating Trump from pressure to leave the field.

Trump’s chief opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said after these indictments: “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation.”

Republican congressperson Nancy Mace: “This is a banana republic. I can’t believe this is happening.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Democrats are arresting their political enemies. and they work together in their corrupt ways to get it done.”

Trump is using his affliction to raise millions of dollars from his base.

Trump will likely face Arraignment Day III in Georgia in August.  A state prosecutor is expected to charge Trump with criminal interference in the certification of Georgia’s vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

As of now, there is no sign of cracks in Trump’s support among Republican voters.  There is no surge to another candidate.  What remains to be seen is whether Republican voters, as they see Trump spend his days in courtrooms and his evenings at rallies around the country, reach a conclusion that this is a spectacle too far, too much to bear, and that they want to turn to another conservative populist who stands for them in the political trials— and not the criminal trials – of 2024.

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Donald Trump’s legal woes will serve him well



It’s not often that a U.S. President faces federal indictment, but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it might as well be Donald Trump first.

The news that Donald Trump is facing a federal investigation over the removal of secret documents from the White House in 2021 came as no surprise.

Keen watches of the Washington soap opera have seen this playbook before, albeit in a different form.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a Washington outsider. But as seriously damaged as he may be (thanks to the events of January 6), his support base has only grown whenever he faces scrutiny.

For his supporters, his legal woes mirror their own relationship with the government – a giant, unfair beast that picks and chooses its fights.

Trump is accused of storing sensitive documents—including those concerning matters of national security—in boxes, some even in a shower.

The documents were seized last August when investigators from the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.

The Department of Justice has historically avoided charging people who are running for public office. Whether they should do that is a debate for another day. But it’s happening now. And it’s making it all too easy for Trump to claim there is a concerted campaign to get him away from the White House.

Trump exposed the deep state. IF they exist, they probably don’t want him back in power. Whether they exist doesn’t matter really, because plenty of Trump’s supporters agree with him, and believe the secret state is working against them. Call it QAnon, call it a conspiracy – it doesn’t matter in a democracy.

The DoJ now has to go all in. Failing to secure a conviction would be a serious embarrassment for the department.

This is the second time Trump has been indicted in recent months, yet the opinion polls show he only increases his popularity among MAGA and Republican voters. It leaves the Republican party in a difficult position. Support their leading candidate or support the law?

As other Republicans rallied around the embattled candidate, Trump held on to his loyal base of supporters.

For the Democrats, and for Biden, another reality will soon sink in – if Trump becomes President, and they lose office next year, how will a Trump-run DoJ deal with them?

Broadly, the tit-for-tat one-up-manship of U.S. politics is breaking tradition and potentially breaking the country.


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