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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok is less than two weeks away from President Trump's deal-or-death deadline, but a transaction is feeling even further away than when he first made his threat.

Driving the news: China's new tech export rules could prevent ByteDance from including TikTok's algorithm in its sale of TikTok, which is akin to McDonald's selling a Big Mac without the meat.

Between the lines: This deal was already difficult before Beijing intervened, but at least companies like Microsoft and Oracle knew what they were bidding on. Now it's less clear, even to ByteDance, thus creating trickle-down troubles for everything from pricing to deal structure.

  • A Chinese government official on Monday accused the U.S. of "outright bullying.”
  • Adding yet another layer of complexity, Trump yesterday reiterated his extortionary insistence that the U.S. "has to be compensated, well compensated" for approving a sale.
  • There still doesn't appear to be any buyside appetite for such a payment, with sources hoping Trump will rhetorically save face by pointing to deal-related tax payments.

Of note: That doesn't mean there won't be a deal, because saying anything with certainty about this situation would be folly.

The bottom line: TikTok has become a lot like a Rubik's Cube, a multi-sided puzzle that often involves a long series of counterproductive twists. Most players eventually give up, angry at themselves for even taking the time. But, every once in a while, all of that frustration gives way to an epiphany.

Go deeper

TikTok mega-star Josh Richards pivots to VC investing

Photo: RNewsfoto/Triller

Josh Richards is joining Remus Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm, as a Venture Partner, Axios has learned.

The backdrop: Richards, 18, has more than 22 million followers on TikTok and is an angel investor and chief strategy officer at Triller. Remus invests in startups that cater to Gen-Z, like boutique fitness app ClassPass.

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.