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Trump’s TikTok clash set to reward his Silicon Valley political allies

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As Oracle seeks US approval for a landmark partnership with the short video app TikTok, experts say questions will intensify over Trump’s political relationship with President and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.

One of the richest men in the world, Ellison built vast bridges with Trump. He expressed his support for the president and reportedly organized a major fundraiser for him this year when donors who paid $ 100,000 were offered a chance to play golf with Trump.
Nor will the review be limited to Ellison; Oracle CEO Safra Catz also shares close ties with Trump. She donated more than $ 130,000 to Trump’s re-election efforts this year, according to Data from the Federal Election Commission. Catz was part of Trump’s presidential transition team in 2016 and was at one point considered for a post in the administration. Catz and Ellison have both served on Trump’s industry task forces devoted to economic recovery.

Oracle did not respond to requests for comment. The White House declined to comment.

Trump raised eyebrows last month when he publicly backed the prospect of a deal involving TikTok and Oracle. At the time, Oracle and Microsoft were in competition to acquire TikTok, with Microsoft widely seen as the leader. Oracle, experts said, lacked experience in consumer services and offered no products in the social media arena.
But on Sunday evening, sources told CNN that TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance had sided with Oracle over Microsoft. Oracle Treasury Secretary and Steven Mnuchin confirmed the proposed deal on Monday. In a statement, TikTok said it believed the proposal “would solve the administration’s security concerns.”
Administration officials have complained for months that TikTok poses a national security risk, due to its current ownership by a Chinese company. TikTok rejected the claims, saying it stores all US user data outside of China and that the information is not subject to Chinese law; cybersecurity experts have says there is no proof that TikTok has been compromised by Chinese intelligence.
Oracle’s proposed partnership with TikTok has yet to be considered by the US government. And it’s still unclear whether those talks will be resolved until a Trump administration ban on TikTok goes into effect on September 20, although Mnuchin said the government will review the deal this week.

When asked directly if Ellison’s ties to Trump were a factor in the proposed deal negotiations, one person familiar with the negotiations insisted it was “a business decision, not a political one.”

But outside analysts said it was indistinguishable from one another, given Trump’s personality. Trump is used to injecting himself into ostensibly neutral public policy processes. For example, Trump appeared to interfere in multibillion dollar cloud contract decision expected Amazon to win; Eventually, and after a quiet campaign of pressure from Oracle, the Pentagon awarded the deal to Microsoft. In another closely scrutinized case, Trump promised to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner (which is now WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company). The announcement surprised experts as antitrust merger reviews are expected to take place regardless of presidential influence.
As the Oracle-TikTok negotiations progressed, some reports highlighted how Microsoft builds own relationships with the Trump administration.

Still, Microsoft’s relationship fell short of Ellison’s, said Eric Schiffer, president of the Patriarch Organization, a technology-focused private equity firm.

“Microsoft has done everything it can, except show up to a rally wearing a MAGA hat to win,” said Schiffer. “There is no doubt that the conventional wisdom was that Microsoft was strategically positioned, having made big political forays into the administration and playing politics with Trump fairly well compared to most companies. But not as well as Larry. . “

Other experts have said that while Ellison’s ties to Trump may have given Oracle an advantage, the proposal ultimately has yet to adequately address the US government’s national security concerns.

Sources described the proposal as a halt before TikTok’s outright sale to Oracle, a detail that could conflict with Trump’s Aug. 14 executive order that called for a full divestment, Berkeley associate Harry Broadman said. Research Group and former member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the government body that audits certain transactions that could give a foreign investor control of a US company.

“Yes, Larry Ellison is friends with Trump, and maybe that will mean something, I don’t know,” Broadman said. “But there are executive decrees, and people will be looking to see how that coincides with what the decrees say.”

Whether the Oracle deal passes the security rally depends heavily on the specifics of the deal, said Alex Stamos, the former Facebook security chief.

“An agreement where Oracle takes over hosting [of TikTok’s data] without source code and significant operational changes would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok, and acceptance of such a deal by the White House would demonstrate that this exercise was pure fraud, “Stamos tweeted.



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