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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Trump administration's existential threat to TikTok is again going down to the wire, as today is the deadline for when its Chinese parent company ByteDance must unwind a 2018 merger that helped create the app.

The big picture: There's no precedent for what might be coming after the stroke of midnight, and so far Treasury is turtling.

  • The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) has previously required that past mergers be unwound (e.g., Grindr), but never before has such an order not been met in time.
  • TikTok would, at least theoretically, be in violation of the law if it continues to operate, unless CFIUS grants it a 30-day extension (which it hasn't) or a judge grants it an emergency injunction (which TikTok sued for on Tuesday).
  • The original CFIUS ruling says that the U.S. Justice Department "is authorized to take any steps necessary."

"Wait a minute," says rhetorical reader. "I thought they had a deal with Oracle and Walmart that President Trump approved?"

  • Yes, but Trump only approved it in concept. The devil was in the details, particularly as it relates to data privacy and security, and those details remain bedeviled.

What TikTok is saying: "In the nearly two months since the President gave his preliminary approval to our proposal to satisfy those concerns, we have offered detailed solutions to finalize that agreement — but have received no substantive feedback."

What Treasury is saying: Nothing. Not only to reporters like me, but sources suggest that it also went dark on TikTok/ByteDance as the election neared.

The bottom line: TikTok is two-for-two in requesting court injunctions, but both of those cases related to sloppily-written executive orders. Overcoming CFIUS, which is designed to protect national security, could be a higher bar. In the meantime, over 1,500 U.S. workers and an estimated 100 million U.S. users hang in the balance.

Go deeper

Trump bans transactions with eight Chinese software apps

Trump speaking at a rally in Dalton, Georgia, on Jan. 4. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that prohibits transactions with eight Chinese software applications, claiming they pose a national security threat given their ability to access private information about their users.

Why it matters: The order comes two weeks before Trump leaves office, and it remains unclear whether President-elect Biden will continue enforcing Trump’s bans on Chinese companies.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
41 mins ago - Energy & Environment

The road to COP26 gets slightly easier

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The bad diplomatic vibes heading into the critical United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, might be improving slightly.

Catch up fast: Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday pledged to end overseas finance for building new coal-fired power plants and boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Narrowing the employee divide

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Companies are narrowing the blue- and white-collar experience as they're forced to adapt to a worker-led market.

Driving the news: Basic office tools and concepts like corporate communications and schedule flexibility are migrating to frontline operations through investments in technology.