Trump's indictment ends decades of perceived invincibility
Trump's indictment ends decades of perceived invincibility
SAULSALITO, Calif. (AP) — Under intense scrutiny from Washington that could lead to a potential ban, the top attorney for TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance defended the social media platform’s plan to safeguard U.S. user data from China.
“The basic approach that we’re following is to make it physically impossible for any government, including the Chinese government, to get access to U.S. user data,” said general counsel Erich Andersen during a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press at a cybersecurity conference in Sausalito, California, on Friday sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation and Aspen Digital and featuring top government officials, tech executives and journalists.
ByteDance will continue to develop its new app called Lemon8, Andersen said.
“We’re obviously going to do our best with the Lemon8 app to comply with U.S. law and to make sure we do the right thing here,” Andersen said, referring to the new social app developed by ByteDance that resembles Instagram and Pinterest. “But I think we got a long way to go with that application — it’s pretty much a startup phase.”
ByteDance’s most known app, TikTok, is under intense scrutiny over concerns it could hand over user data to the Chinese government or push pro-Beijing propaganda and misinformation on its behalf. Lemon8 was introduced across app stores in Japan in April 2020 and has been rolled out in more countries since then. It’s available for download in the U.S. and could face similar scrutiny to TikTok.
Leaders at the FBI, CIA and officials at other government agencies have warned that ByteDance could be forced to give user data — such as browsing history, IP addresses and biometric identifiers — to Beijing under a 2017 law that compels companies to cooperate with the government for matters involving China’s national security. Another Chinese law, implemented in 2014, has similar mandates.
To assuage concerns from U.S. officials, TikTok has been emphasizing a $1.5 billion proposal, called Project Texas, to store all U.S. user data on servers owned and maintained by the software giant Oracle. Under the plan, access to U.S. data would be managed by U.S. employees through a separate entity called TikTok U.S. Data Security, which is run independently of ByteDance and monitored by outside observers.
Some lawmakers have said that’s not enough. But despite skepticism about the project, TikTok says it is moving forward anyway.
“We’re investing in a system where people don’t have to believe the Chinese government and they don’t have to believe us,” Andersen said.
He also wondered if the skepticism was being driven by something else.
“Where are we falling short here?” he said. “At some point you get beyond the cybersecurity risk assessment, etcetera, and you get to ‘We don’t like your nationality.’”
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has said the company started deleting all historic U.S. user data from non-Oracle servers this month and expects that process to be completed this year. During a congressional hearing held last week, Chew said migrating the data to Oracle will keep it out of China’s hands, but also acknowledged China-based employees may still have access to it before the process wraps up.
TikTok maintains it has never been requested to turn over any kind of data and won’t do so if asked. But whether those promises, or Project Texas, will allow it to stay operating in the U.S. remains to be seen.
The U.S., as well as Britain, the European Union and others, have banned TikTok on government devices. And the Biden administration is reportedly threatening a U.S. ban on the app unless its Chinese owners divest their stakes in the company.
On Friday, Andersen said a ban would be “basically giving up”.
“Banning a platform like TikTok is a defeat, it’s a statement that we aren’t creative enough to find another way,” he said.
China has said it would oppose a possible sale, a declaration that makes it more difficult for TikTok to position itself and ByteDance as a global enterprise instead of a Chinese company. In 2020, the country had also come out in fierce opposition to executive orders by then President Donald Trump that sought to ban TikTok and the messaging app WeChat.
“They were clear about their point of view back in 2020 timeframe when we faced an existential challenge from executive orders under the Trump administration,” Andersen said.
Courts blocked Trump’s efforts, and President Joe Biden rescinded Trump’s orders after taking office. The company has since been in talks about privacy concerns with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multi-agency panel that sits under the Treasury department.
Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been pushing bills that would effectively ban TikTok or give the administration more authority to do so. One bill by U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley was blocked this week by Sen. Rand Paul, the only Republican who has come out in opposition to a TikTok ban. A small number of progressive lawmakers have also said they would oppose a ban, and argued the U.S. should implement a national privacy law to curtail the problem.
Andersen said Friday TikTok would support broad-based privacy legislation.
“Our view is that we would really welcome broad-based legislation that applies broadly and evenly,” he said. “What we don’t like, frankly, is legislation that is sort of targeted at one company.”
TikTok could also be banned through another bill, called the RESTRICT Act, that has garnered broad bipartisan support in the Senate and backing from the White House. The legislation does not call out TikTok but would give the Commerce Department power to review and potentially restrict foreign threats to techno NEW YORK (AP) — When Donald Trump steps before a judge next week to be arraigned in a New York courtroom, it will not only mark the first time a former U.S. president has faced criminal charges. It will also represent a reckoning for a man long nicknamed “Teflon Don,” who until now has managed to skirt serious legal jeopardy despite 40 years of legal scrutiny.
Trump, who is the early frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to turn himself in Tuesday. He faces charges including at least one felony offense related to hush money payments to women during his 2016 campaign. Like any other person facing trial, he will be booked, fingerprinted and photographed before being given the chance to enter a plea.
The spectacle that is sure to unfold will mark an unprecedented moment in American history that will demonstrate once again how dramatically Trump — who already held the distinction of being the first president to be impeached twice — has upended democratic norms. But on a personal level, the indictment pierces the cloak of invincibility that seemed to follow Trump through his decades in business and in politics, as he faced allegations of fraud, collusion and sexual misconduct.
“Boy, after all this time it’s a bit of a shock,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said of the indictment. “You know I always thought of him as the Gingerbread Man, shouting, ‘You can’t catch me!’ as he ran away.”
“Given his track record,” he said, “I had trouble imagining he would ever be held accountable.”
“These are not things that Donald Trump ever thought in his entire life, nor I, for that matter, that he would ever be confronted with,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer and a key witness in the case who served jail time for the payments, told CNN.
Of course, some of the celebration by Trump’s detractors may be premature. The former president could seek to have a judge quickly dismiss the case. And even if it moves forward, there’s no guarantee of conviction. Intensifying investigations in Atlanta and Washington are seen as potentially more serious legal threats.
Still, Trump and his team were caught by surprise when word of the New York indictment broke Thursday evening, following news reports that the grand jury hearing the case was set for a weeks-long hiatus. As the deliberations dragged on, some in Trump’s orbit had become convinced that the case had stalled and that charges might never be brought. That included Trump attorney Joe Tacopina, who said Friday morning he had hoped the “rule of law would prevail.”
Trump, he said on the “Today” show, was “initially was shocked” by news of the charges, but quickly pivoted to his usual pushback playbook.
“After he got over that,” he said, Trump “put a notch on his belt and he decided we have to fight now. And he got into a typical Donald Trump posture where he’s ready to be combative on something that he believes is an injustice. ... I think he’s now in the posture that he’s ready to fight this.”
In the meantime, Trump and his team have tried to use the news to his advantage, hoping to energize his loyal base by painting the investigation as part of a larger plot to derail his candidacy.
Already, the charges have been a boon to his struggling fundraising. The campaign announced Friday evening that it had raised over $4 million in the 24 hours after the indictment became public, far smashing its previous record after the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
More than 25% of donations, according to the campaign, came from first-time donors. The average contribution: $34.
His campaign also continued to blast out supportive statements from dozens of top Republicans who have rallied behind Trump, including several of his declared and likely challengers, underscoring his continued hold on the party. Trump has been in contact by phone with key congressional allies, including members of House leadership and top committees, according to people familiar with the conversations, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the response.
Trump ally Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who formally endorsed the former president Friday, said Trump “doesn’t back down” and was going to “fight back,” telling a local radio show it was “yet another chapter where Donald Trump is going to come back on top in the end.”
The media maelstrom has catapulted the former president back into the spotlight he craves, at least temporarily limiting attention being paid to his rivals, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to challenge Trump for the nomination, and has been holding events across the county to promote his book.
Trump aides have been discussing other ideas to maximize the situation, including the possibility of holding a press event either before or after the arraignment. Trump is expected to travel from Florida to New York on Monday and stay overnight at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan before heading to the courthouse early Tuesday. He will return to Florida after the arraignment.
Trump has long denied that he had a sexual encounter with the porn actor known as Stormy Daniels and has blasted Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for pursuing the years-old case.
Trump is also facing continued investigations in Georgia, over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in Washington, where a special counsel is probing the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as well as Trump’s handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and potential obstruction of the investigation.
But Sam Nunberg, a longtime former aide who broke with Trump years ago, said that while he no longer supports Trump, he believes the Manhattan case is “a waste of time,” given the allegations, which remain under seal. And he said he was skeptical it would ultimately matter.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said of the indictment. “What would surprise me is if he actually ended up behind bars in prison and I don’t see that happening.”
D’Antonio said that sentiment — and a continued belief that Trump will somehow prevail and dodge the charges — continues among the many people who have reached out to him in the last 24 hours, despite the charges.
“They’re like, he’s going to get away with it,” he said. “Somehow, he’s going to get it thrown out.”