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The key TikTok details that Trump hopes voters no longer remember

Donald Trump isn't just engaged in a brazen flip-flop on TikTok's future, he's also throwing many of his own Republican allies under the bus.


About an hour after Donald Trump’s criminal trial wrapped up for the day, the former president used his social media platform to publish a variety of missives, most of which dealt with the Republican’s plea for “presidential immunity.” As The Washington Post reported, there was one notable exception.

Former president Donald Trump is digging in against a potential ban of TikTok that is moving through Congress — and seeking to blame President Biden for it — even though Trump sought to outlaw the social media application when he was in the White House.

“Just so everyone knows, especially the young people, Crooked Joe Biden is responsible for banning TikTok,” he wrote. “He is the one pushing it to close, and doing it to help his friends over at Facebook become richer and more dominant, and able to continue to fight, perhaps illegally, the Republican Party. It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE! Young people, and lots of others, must remember this on November 5th, ELECTION DAY, when they vote!”

So, a few things.

First, the pending legislation is not, strictly speaking, designed to “ban” TikTok. Rather, the proposal, for good or ill, would force the platform’s China-based parent company to sell TikTok within about a year.

Second, the idea that Biden is conspiring with Facebook — “perhaps illegally” — as part of a sinister, partisan plot is quite bonkers, even by Trump standards.

Third, the electoral message was hardly subtle — Trump apparently thinks “the young people” will rally behind him based on the TikTok issue — but the former president is counting on short memories. It was, after all, just four years ago when Trump announced plans to go after TikTok, and an executive order soon followed. That policy ultimately failed in the courts, though the former president made no effort to hide his belief that the app should not exist on Americans’ phones.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said in July 2020.

What prompted the 180-degree turn? As my MSNBC colleague Zeeshan Aleem noted, “Nobody knows what’s caused his shocking reversal, but [in early March] Trump had a meeting with [Jeff Yass] an ultrawealthy hedge fund manager who has a multibillion-dollar stake in ByteDance, and could theoretically be a potential future donor. Trump is nothing if not transactional.”

But as brazen as all of this is, let’s also not overlook the fact that congressional efforts against TikTok are bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on a wide range of issues, but this isn’t one of them: When the GOP-led House took up the TikTok bill a few days ago, it received 186 Republican votes — including picking up the support of literally every member of the House GOP leadership.

In all, roughly 85% of the House Republican conference supported legislation to force a TikTok sale, and support among GOP senators is expected to be comparable.

Perhaps the public is supposed to believe that they, too, are participating in a plot to help Facebook "continue to fight, perhaps illegally, the Republican Party"?

Whether Trump understands this or not, by trying to blame Biden for the TikTok policy, the former president is throwing many of his own allies under the bus.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.