President Donald Trump’s looming ban on business dealings with TikTok will not restrict the social media app’s employees from receiving wages or benefits, and will not make it a crime for those employees to perform their day jobs, the US government said in a court filing Monday.
The disclosure reflects the first concrete details the federal government has disclosed about how Trump’s ban against TikTok would be implemented. Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order outlining the ban has been met with confusion because it does not explain what Americans must do to comply with the order, but describes stiff penalties for those who violate it.
The filing also marks a stark reversal by the government in a legal challenge against Trump’s ban brought by a US-based TikTok employee.
The employee, Patrick Ryan, had requested a temporary restraining order from Judge Vince Chhabria that would block the Trump administration from enforcing the ban against worker wages.
On Saturday, the Justice Department filed a 16-page reply arguing that the judge should reject Ryan’s request for a temporary restraining order because Ryan’s claims were unpersuasive and unlikely to succeed. Government lawyers argued Ryan’s case rested on “speculation regarding the scope and impact of the Executive Order” and “fails to present even a serious question.”
Yet two days later, the Justice Department reversed course, outlining how Trump’s ban will not affect Ryan’s wages, or those of his colleagues, after all. The filing said that if and when Trump’s TikTok ban goes into effect after Sept. 20, the Commerce Department will not define prohibited transactions under Trump’s executive order to include “otherwise lawful actions that are part of [employees’] regular job duties and responsibilities.”
“[Ryan’s] motion for a temporary restraining order is now moot,” the government argued.
A hearing on Tuesday that was scheduled for parties to debate a potential temporary restraining order has since been canceled, indicating that the judge may no longer intend to consider one.
Alexander Urbelis, an attorney representing Ryan, said that the case’s broader claims about the legality of Trump’s order still stand, and will continue to be litigated in the case.
“The broader issue here is whether Trump’s executive order is constitutional at all,” Urbelis said. “We plan on pursuing the residual issue.”
On Sunday, sources told CNN TikTok and Oracle have reached a partnership agreement aimed at addressing the administration’s national security concerns regarding the viral video app. The companies confirmed the proposal on Monday.