By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge in Washington said he plans to decide later on Sunday whether to block a Trump administration order banning Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc’s Google from offering Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok for download in U.S. app stores.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said after a 90-minute Sunday morning hearing that he plans to issue a public order later in the day. The Commerce Department TikTok app store ban is set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. EDT (0359 GMT).
John E. Hall, a lawyer for TikTok, argued during the hearing that the ban was “unprecedented” and “irrational.”
“How does it make sense to impose this app store ban tonight when there are negotiations underway that might make it unnecessary?” Hall asked during the hearing. “This is just punitive.
“This is just a blunt way to whack the company,” he added. “There is simply no urgency here.”
U.S. officials have expressed national security concerns that personal data collected on 100 million Americans who use the app could be obtained by China’s Communist Party government.
ByteDance said on Sept. 20 it had a preliminary deal for Walmart (NYSE:WMT) Inc and Oracle Corp (NYSE:ORCL) to take stakes in a new company, TikTok Global, that would oversee U.S. operations. Negotiations continue over the terms of the agreement and to resolve concerns from Washington and Beijing.
The deal is still to be reviewed by the U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
The Justice Department said a preliminary injunction allowing Americans to continue downloading the TikTok app would be “interfering with a formal national security judgment of the president; altering the landscape with respect to ongoing CFIUS negotiations; and continuing to allow sensitive and valuable user information to flow to ByteDance with respect to all new users.”
On Sept. 19, the Commerce Department delayed the ban to give the companies an additional week to finalize a deal.
TikTok argues the restrictions, amid rising U.S.-China tensions under the Trump administration, “were not motivated by a genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election.”
A separate set of restrictions are set to take effect Nov. 12 barring other transactions with TikTok that would effectively ban the app in the United States, the company said.
Another U.S. judge, in Pennsylvania, on Saturday rejected a bid by three TikTok content creators to block the ban, while a judge in California has blocked a similar order from taking effect on Tencent Holdings (OTC:TCEHY)’ WeChat app.