TikTok to Sue U.S. Government Over Trump’s Ban
The Chinese tech firm claims the White House’s ban is overtly political; Trump is formally nominated as the Republican candidate for president.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: TikTok announces plans to sue the U.S. government, the Republican Party formally nominates Trump for president, and Ivory Coast's president will seek a controversial third term.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: TikTok announces plans to sue the U.S. government, the Republican Party formally nominates Trump for president, and Ivory Coast’s president will seek a controversial third term.
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TikTok Hits Back at Trump’s Ban
The popular video-sharing platform TikTok said on Monday that it is suing the U.S. government over President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders banning the app in the United States, representing the latest development in the ongoing dispute between the White House and Chinese tech companies.
The lawsuit is TikTok’s first direct challenge to Washington since the Trump administration introduced the ban earlier this month. In its complaint, TikTok accused the government of failing to provide sufficient evidence to show that it poses a credible threat to U.S. national security, and that it didn’t allow TikTok to present evidence to defend itself. It also claims that the White House’s use of emergency powers to issue the executive order was illegal.
Scoring political points. The complaint took a broader view as well. It accused Trump of using the ban to score political points against China, calling it a “political decision” aimed at boosting Trump’s efforts to “campaign on an anti-China platform.” It specifically cited his references to the coronavirus as the “China virus” and other labels that aim to pin the blame for the pandemic on Beijing which collectively demonstrate his anti-China tilt.
Taking aim at Beijing. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the consequent collapse of the U.S. economy, Trump has made getting tough on China a core part of his reelection campaign. In recent months, he has ramped up the pressure significantly, butting heads with Beijing over such issues as security, trade, diplomacy, and technology.
The TikTok ban was widely considered a part of this effort. Originally set to begin on Sep. 15, Trump recently extended the ban’s start date to Nov. 12, meaning the lawsuit could drag on well into the upcoming campaign, setting up a major showdown between the two governments as Trump readies himself to take on Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
What We’re Following Today
Republican Party nominates Trump. On Monday, Trump was formally nominated by the Republican Party to stand as its candidate for president, kicking off the week-long Republican National Convention (RNC). Trump used the occasion to cast doubt over the electoral process, accusing Democrats of “using Covid to steal the election” and implying that the coronavirus lockdown has been engineered by his opponents to undermine his credibility. Foreign Policy’s Michael Hirsh covered the first day of the convention, warning that Trump will use the RNC to lay the groundwork for claiming victory in the election no matter the results.
Prior to the start of the convention, the Republican National Committee released its policy platform—which, unusually, didn’t contain any new policy positions but simply reaffirmed the party’s “enthusiastic support” for Trump. The move gives further credence to the belief that the 2020 election will be a de facto referendum on Trump himself.
No resolution in Mali. West African representatives and Mali’s coup leaders concluded a round of talks on Monday without reaching a resolution, throwing the political future of the country into further doubt. Leaders from West Africa were dispatched to the country in the hopes of reversing last week’s military coup and restoring civilian rule, though it soon became clear that deposed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita would not be part of this process.
One of the coup’s leaders, Col. Ismael Wague, rejected earlier reports that the junta sought a three-year transitional government composed primarily of military personnel, telling reporters that “nothing has been decided,” and that “at no point have we talked about military-majority government.”
Bombing in the Philippines. A pair of explosions rocked the Philippine city of Jolo on Monday, killing 14 and injuring 75 in an attack authorities have blamed on Islamist militants linked to the Abu Sayyaf group. No group has taken responsibility for the attack, but the region has become a hotbed for Islamist militant activity in recent years.
Abu Sayyaf is a small but violent jihadist group active mostly in the southern Philippines, and several of its factions have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. One of the group’s leaders was arrested in the south earlier this month, and security forces were on alert for possible reprisal attacks.
Keep an Eye On
Kim Jong Un death rumors. A South Korean analyst claimed on Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has likely been comatose since April, rekindling rumors about the health of the country’s dictator. These assertions come days after South Korean intelligence reported that Kim had delegated significant authority to his sister Kim Yo Jong, concluding that she has now effectively become the country’s second-in-command.
The rumors about Kim’s health are probably inaccurate, but the perpetual uncertainty surrounding the North Korean regime makes working with it exceptionally difficult, as Jessica Lee wrote for Foreign Policy after the last wave of rumors of Kim’s death.
Ouattara will seek third term in the Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara announced on Monday that he has filed the paperwork to run for a third term in the country’s October presidential elections, a move opponents say is a violation of the two-term limit set in the constitution. Ouattara floated the possibility of seeking a third term earlier this year, but opted instead to endorse then-Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly after facing resistance.
But Coulibaly’s sudden death in July revived calls for Ouattara to run, and after his RHDP alliance nominated him as their candidate last month, Ouattara was thrust back into the conversation. His supporters argue that because his presidency started before the current constitution was ratified in 2016, the two-term limit doesn’t apply to him.
Odds and Ends
Trump shoots for the moon. The Trump campaign rolled out a policy document outlining the administration’s agenda for its second term, stating its desire to establish a “permanent manned presence on the moon.” Similar to the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War, Trump’s vision seems to have strong nationalistic undertones. China has already expressed a desire to colonize space.
Trump officials have long called for the United States to return to the moon. In 2018, Vice President Mike Pence hinted at colonization in a speech at NASA’s Johnson Space Center: “While our sights are once again set on our lunar neighbor,” he said, “this time we’re not content with just leaving behind footprints. Or even to leave at all.”
That’s it for today.
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Dan Haverty is a former editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @dan_haverty
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