Trump: TikTok Poses National Security Threat, but Banning It Would Help Facebook

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump said Monday that he still believes TikTok poses a national security risk but is opposed to banning the hugely popular app because doing so would help its rival, Facebook, which he continues to lambast over his 2020 election loss.

Trump, in a call-in interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” was asked about his comments last week that seemed to voice opposition to a bill being advanced by Congress that would effectively ban TikTok and other ByteDance apps from the Apple and Google app stores as well as U.S. web hosting services.

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it,” Trump told the hosts. “There’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok. But the thing I don’t like is that without TikTok you’re going to make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people, along with a lot of the media.”

“When I look at it, I’m not looking to make Facebook double the size,” he added. “I think Facebook has been very bad for our country, especially when it comes to elections.”


Trump has repeatedly complained about Facebook’s role during the 2020 election, which he still refuses to concede he lost to President Joe Biden. That includes at least $400 million that its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife donated to two nonprofit organizations that distributed grants to state and local governments to help them conduct the 2020 election at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The donations — which were fully permitted under campaign finance law — went to pay for things like equipment to process mail ballots and drive-thru voting locations.

TikTok, a video-sharing app, has emerged as a major issue in the 2024 presidential campaign. The platform has about 170 million users in the U.S., most of whom skew younger — a demographic that both parties are desperately trying to court ahead of November’s general election. Younger voters have become especially hard for campaigns to reach as they gravitate away from traditional platforms like cable television.

Biden’s 2024 campaign officially joined TikTok last month, even though he has expressed his own national security concerns over the platform, banned it on federal devices and on Friday endorsed the legislation that could lead to its ban.

The bill passed unanimously by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee calls on China’s ByteDance to divest its ownership of TikTok or effectively face a U.S. ban. Top Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, support the bill. Johnson has indicated it will soon come up for a full vote in the House.

As president, Trump attempted to ban TikTok through an executive order that called “the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China)” a threat to “the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.” The courts, however, blocked the action after TikTok sued, arguing such actions would violate free speech and due process rights.

Pressed on whether he still believed the app posed a national security risk, Trump said Monday: “I do believe it. And we have to very much go into privacy and make sure that we are protecting the American people’s privacy and data rights.”

“But,” he went on to say, “you have that problem with Facebook and lots of other companies, too.” Some American companies, he charged, are “not so American. They deal in China. And if China wants anything from them they will give it. So that’s a national security risk also.”

Biden in 2022 banned the use of TikTok by the federal government’s nearly 4 million employees on devices owned by its agencies, with limited exceptions for law enforcement, national security and security research purposes.

He also recently signed an executive order that allows the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to take steps to prevent the large-scale transfer of Americans’ personal data to what the White House calls “countries of concern,” including China.

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that TikTok owner ByteDance could share user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers — with China’s authoritarian government. TikTok said it has never done that and wouldn’t do so if asked. The U.S. government also hasn’t provided evidence of that happening.

Trump had first voiced support for the app in a post on his Truth Social site last week. “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better,” he wrote. “They are a true Enemy of the People!”

Trump, in the interview, said he had not discussed the company with Jeff Yass, a TikTok investor and a major GOP donor. Trump said the two had recently met “very briefly” but that Yass “never mentioned TikTok.”

Trump also confirmed he met last week with Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who has increasingly aligned himself with conservative politics. Trump said he didn’t know whether Musk would end up supporting his campaign, noting they “obviously have opposing views on a minor subject called electric cars,” which Trump has railed against.

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