Federal Judge Halts Trump Policy Weeks Before Presidency Ends

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This week, federal Judge Carl Nichols granted a preliminary injunction blocking restrictions from the Commerce Department that could have blocked the usage of the popular social media app TikTok in the United States. The Trump administration has alleged that user data from the app could be accessible by the Chinese government, since the app’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing, although there’s no apparent concrete evidence of any actual or prospective data transfer between the company and Chinese authorities. Nichols’s new order blocks the government from “barring data hosting within the United States for TikTok, content delivery services and other technical transactions,” Reuters explains. The restrictions targeting TikTok’s core functions would’ve blocked the app from operating in the U.S.

Nichols concluded that the Trump administration had “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives” to their restrictions. Previously, Nichols has also blocked the Trump administration from barring iPhone and Android app stores from providing the TikTok app for downloads by prospective new users. Meanwhile, federal Judge Wendy Beetlestone has previously issued an order blocking the same restrictions that Nichols covered in his new order. In Nichols’s suit, ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) brought the lawsuit, while in Beetlestone’s case, TikTok users were behind the court action. The restrictions that both judges blocked had been set to take effect on November 12, within the last several weeks.

The Commerce Department insisted in response to Nichols’s new order that an August executive order from President Trump that outlined the restrictions against TikTok “is fully consistent with law and promotes legitimate national security interests.” Would the Trump administration therefore suggest that these federal judges who have blocked their restrictions on TikTok are somehow putting American national security in jeopardy? President Trump himself originally nominated Nichols for the federal judiciary. In reality, the Trump administration’s arguments clearly simply don’t hold water — arbitrary anti-China animus isn’t enough to hold up in court, and again, there’s simply no apparent concrete evidence of any actual compromise of TikTok user data. At the order of the Trump administration, ByteDance has spent months working on a deal to sell TikTok’s U.S. assets to U.S.-based interests.

The Trump administration’s animosity towards China will be one of many agenda items for President-elect Joe Biden to deal with once taking office. Biden has named Tony Blinken, a State Department veteran, as his pick to become Secretary of State.