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TikTok to sue Trump administration over U.S. ban

Carl Tobias, Law Professor at the University of Richmond, joins The Final Round to discuss the latest on President Trump's executive order banning TikTok and if their chances of winning a lawsuit against the administration.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Let's turn our attention back to what's happening between the US and the Chinese, specifically as it relates to TikTok. The company, or the app, I should say, is reportedly preparing to file a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration for the executive order banning the app from the US within a 45-day span. And the lawsuit is likely to come as early as this week, according to several reports, even as parent company ByteDance tries to mull over some kind of deal to spin off the US operations.

I want to bring in Carl Tobias. He is the University of Richmond law professor there. And Carl, let's start with what TikTok he's come forward and said. You know, we got that statement last week following the executive order. The company, ByteDance specifically, coming out and saying, we're going to explore all remedies possible, including a fight in US courts. What kind of leg does TikTok have to stand on right now, especially given they're going up directly against a review by CFIUS?

CARL TOBIAS: Well, it's very sketchy and not very much clarity yet. No one has seen the complaint. But they recoiled and had a sharp statement saying the president doesn't have any authority to do that. And now they're saying that they haven't had due process and there may be constitutional and other statutory violations by the president.

And we'll have to see. And Tuesday seems to be the time in the Southern District of California where the litigation may commence. And when we see that complaint, we may have a better sense.

But the executive order and the whole rollout-- we're not entirely clear. And so I think we're going to have to see what happens in the days ahead. It's extremely fluid. And as you know, Twitter has made overtures and Microsoft seems to still be in the lead, but it's not altogether clear.

ANDY SERWER: Hey, Carl, I don't know if you saw, but Reuters is reporting today that actually separating TikTok from ByteDance is not gonna be a simple thing at all and in fact will take more than a year to do because the server code is connected to, basically, the Chinese consumer-facing application as well. And I'm wondering if that will come into play here as we try to sort through this and whether the administration will run out of patience.

CARL TOBIAS: Well, 45 days is an awful short period to do very much. And so I think that's on the minds of everyone, though we'll see what happens after 45 days. But yes, I think there are many complications and many unanswered questions at this point.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Carl, Rick Newman here. Can you talk a bit about this idea of the US government getting some kind of broker's fee on this deal? I mean, it seems ridiculous. It seems like one of those things that Trump just puts out there knowing that it probably will never happen, but he wants to be seen as a businessman looking out for taxpayer interests. Is there any precedent for that? Is there any chance that could possibly happen?

CARL TOBIAS: I think the short answer is no. And there's been a lot of pushback on that. And I think it does emanate from his own business experience.

But I think it would be unprecedented for a president to do that and to take money, under the table or over the table. But there are certain fees that could be charged, I think, by the treasury in working through some of the similar kinds of situations. But there isn't going to be any cut. It goes to the treasury, as far as I can tell.

AKIKO FUJITA: Carl, you talk about the lack of clarity around the executive order as it relates to TikTok. You could argue there's even less clarity with WeChat. And yet this is an app that is used very widely, not just in China, but any company, any business that operates there. There's some questions about whether, in fact, Apple is gonna be required to remove the app from the Chinese App Store.

I mean, what's your understanding in terms of the scope that the US government has in trying to basically ban an app? Is it within just US jurisdiction, or because Apple is an American company, can it essentially just compel the company to just completely ban the app altogether?

CARL TOBIAS: I don't think that-- though I'm not an expert on all of those legal issues-- I don't think it has actually the territorial reach. And so I don't think it can force Apple to do things or not do things in China.

AKIKO FUJITA: OK, we'll certainly continue to follow that. Still, a lot of questions here around what exactly can be done as it relates to TikTok as well as Apple. Carl Tobias, law professor at the University of Richmond, thanks so much for your time today.