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Trump says he will 'immediately' ban Chinese-owned TikTok from operating in U.S.

President Donald Trump is taking his threats against TikTok to new heights, promising to ban the app, which has become an outlet of creativity for millions of Americans, including major brands, despite its Chinese-based origins.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” the president told reporters Friday night. Asked when it would happen, he said: “Soon, immediately. I mean essentially immediately.”

Trump said he had the authority to ban the app, owned by ByteDance Ltd., one of China’s biggest tech companies, a move he could make by executive order or under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. “I will sign the document tomorrow,” he said just before Air Force One landed in Washington from a visit to Florida.

Trump’s move could upend a potential bid from Microsoft Corp., which was exploring an acquisition, according to people familiar with the matter.

TikTok is seen as the only overseas social media app to become a phenomenon in the U.S., and now there is a chance its reign as an internet supernova could crash. U.S. officials, and foreign governments, have targeted TikTok as a credible threat to security, with fears that it could serve the Chinese government with sensitive personal data from devices across the world. There are others who defend TikTok and say Trump’s obsession with the app is politically motivated and even xenophobic.

What’s clear is that TikTok has been fighting for its existence. The company hired Kevin Mayer, a former exec at The Walt Disney Co., to be its CEO to lend to its image that it is just a fun app meant for catchy songs and dances, and not a secretive operation. TikTok has even stormed the advertising world in the past year, luring brands like Chipotle, Walmart, Kind, Nike, Ralph Lauren and more. TikTok participated in the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s NewFront presentations in June, where it pitched the app alongside homegrown tech platforms like YouTube, Hulu and Snapchat.

Mayer made a public plea for his company this week, as rival tech CEOs from Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google appeared on Capitol Hill to address antitrust concerns from members of Congress. In his testimony, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the threats coming from Chinese-owned apps like TikTok.

On Wednesday, Mayer posted on online letter in which he said TikTok was vital to creating a competitive advertising ecosystem.

“Without TikTok, American advertisers would again be left with few choices,” Mayer wrote in his post. “Competition would dry up and so too will an outlet for America’s creative energy. We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda—our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy.”

Mayer also touted that the company was hiring 10,000 people in America to fortify its foothold here. The company has been on a hiring spree, recruiting ad, media and tech execs. Just this week, TikTok announced it hired Sandie Hawkins as GM of global business solutions to head its ad sales team in the U.S. Hawkins had been a VP at Adobe’s advertising cloud division.

TikTok has also spread money around Hollywood and other hotspots of young talent, promising to spend $1 billion in the next three years to retain video stars, who have grown famous using the app.

-With contributions from Bloomberg News