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US House Republicans forge ahead with TikTok bill despite Trump

FILE PHOTO: A man uses his mobile phone near the U.S. Capitol in Washington

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives vowed on Tuesday to forge ahead with a vote to ban the popular TikTok social media app, despite the concerns of Donald Trump, who holds great influence over their slim House majority.

House Speaker Mike Johnson is due to bring legislation to the floor on Wednesday that addresses Chinese ownership of TikTok, which Republicans and Democrats say poses a national security risk to the United States. The bill would give TikTok's Chinese owner, ByteDance, about six months to divest the video app used by 170 million Americans.

That is coming despite former president and Republican candidate Trump's public comments in recent days opposing the bill, which he said could benefit Meta Platforms Inc's Facebook and Instagram services.

"I don't want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!" Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform last week.

So far this year, Trump opposition has led House Republicans to scuttle a bipartisan bill negotiated in the Senate meant to address record flows of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border and helped stymie a bipartisan Senate aid package to Ukraine.

The TikTok bill last week passed out of committee with a rare unanimous bipartisan 50-0 vote.

Representative Chip Roy, a prominent Republican hardliner and Trump ally who is co-sponsoring the bill, acknowledged the former president's concerns about other social platforms but said the House needs to act anyway.

"It's not weighing on my mind," the Texas Republican told reporters. "He're trying to be very careful about American-owned companies, and not have the power of government overstep, but to focus here on (the Chinese government) targeting our people."

CLASSIFIED BRIEFING

House members of both parties got a classified briefing about TikTok on Tuesday from the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence officials.

"We've answered a lot of questions from members. We had a classified briefing today so that members can see even more details about what's at risk and how the CCP can jeopardize the risk to American families," Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise told reporters.

Johnson and Scalise ignored questions about Trump's concerns.

Lawmakers have also been deluged with calls from teenage TikTok users who oppose the legislation, which some said have eclipsed those seeking a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

"A lot of them are calling, so it's clogged up the people that want a ceasefire. They've overcome the ceasefire," Democratic Representative Steve Cohen told reporters.

The company is also lobbying Congress against the bill, saying TikTok is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government and warning that divestiture could jeopardize the security of U.S. data.

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Trump continued to rail about Facebook but also acknowledged concerns about a national security risk.

"There's a lot of good and there's a lot of bad with TikTok," Trump said.

Democratic President Joe Biden's re-election campaign has embraced TikTok as a way to reach young voters, while the Trump campaign so far has avoided the platform.

But Biden has also said he would sign the legislation if it passes the House and Senate.

Republican Representative Ben Cline said he backs the bill, despite Trump's opposition, saying, "Everybody's got their opinion about it. He's got a right to have his opinion."

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)