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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's deadline for a TikTok deal is one week from today, as certainty continues to drain from the voices of sources close to the process. The big question now is what happens if no deal is struck.

Between the lines: One possibility is that Trump won't follow through on his threat. This could mean dropping the entire thing altogether, or perhaps saying the parties are close to an agreement but just need a bit more time. Maybe an extra 50 days or so, just to get Trump past Nov. 3.

  • This might depend on who gets into Trump's ear last. For example, former Trump campaign adviser David Urban has been working the White House on TikTok's behalf. Maybe he can sneak by Peter Navarro at 11:59 pm.

The more likely possibility is that Trump follows through, believing the (still questionable) national security rationale and that anti-China tech is a winning political message.

  • It's still unlikely TikTok would go offline next Wednesday, particularly given that it's already fighting Trump's executive order in court. Instead, expect this to become a protracted legal battle, reminiscent of the recording industry vs. Napster.
  • From an executive perspective, the White House would initially use the FTC, although could also leverage Treasury to pressure financial institutions doing business with TikTok. It also may ask Apple and Google to remove TikTok from app stores, although it unlikely to request any sort of forced removal from devices.
  • TikTok did immediately shut down India operations after a government ban, but the U.S.-China conflict is much different than the India-China conflict, which has included recent military skirmishes at the border. As one source explained it to me: To publicly support TikTok in India was to be viewed as unpatriotic, among both politicians and users.

The bottom line: If this doesn't soon get decided in a boardroom, it's going to get decided in a courtroom.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated Sep 24, 2020 - Economy & Business

Trump risk rises for companies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Donald Trump fancies himself a businessman — and has given himself a central role in determining the conduct and even the existence of major companies both domestic and foreign.

Why it matters: America has historically been a great place to operate a company under the rule of law, and not be beholden to political whim. Those days seem to be over — at least for companies in the communications industry.

Updated 16 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.