The Justice Department on Thursday motioned toward dropping a series of cases against the app TikTok, as the administration steers away from former President Donald Trump’s China strategy.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, attorneys at the Justice Department wrote that since the Biden administration is conducting “an evaluation” of Trump’s ban, the court should delay all litigation related to the issue. Biden lawyers added that it is likely that the review will “narrow the issues presented or eliminate the need for judicial review entirely.”
The Office of the Solicitor General asked that every case related to the TikTok ban be delayed until April, a position to which it said lawyers from TikTok agreed. The letter stated that the Biden administration will pursue other means of securing data security.
“The Department of Commerce remains committed to a robust defense of national security as well as ensuring the viability of our economy and preserving individual rights and data privacy,” wrote John Hall, a Justice Department attorney on the case.
Trump last year attempted to ban the popular app, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, amid national security concerns surrounding its connections to the Chinese government. Trump’s crusade quickly became embroiled in an ongoing court battle that has played out alongside a federal push threatening to force TikTok to sell off its American operations.
In a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, TikTok took Trump to task for issuing orders “impermissibly banning” the app. The court in December ordered the president to respond to TikTok’s complaint by Feb. 18, at which point the case would be Biden’s responsibility.
As that deadline draws nearer, it is becoming increasingly clear that Biden will not pursue the case with Trump’s vigor and may even drop it altogether.
ByteDance indefinitely shelved a sale of the app to Walmart and Oracle, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, with people familiar with the matter saying that they expect Biden to review Trump’s executive order calling for a ban.
And late Wednesday evening, the Justice Department sent a letter to a district court judge in one of the government’s cases, asking for a delay in proceedings as the administration reconsiders Trump’s policy.
That same evening, Biden took his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which the world leaders discussed trade and human rights. Before the call, White House press secretary Jen Psaki deflected questions about the administration’s stance on the TikTok ban.
“We are comprehensively evaluating the risks to U.S. data, including from TikTok, and will address them in a decisive and effective fashion,” Psaki said at a press briefing. “If we have news to announce, we will announce it.”
The Justice Department declined to comment on Biden’s attitude toward the proposed TikTok ban.
The Biden administration in the past month has switched the government’s position in a number of high-profile Trump-era cases. Biden’s Solicitor General Office on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that the federal government no longer believes that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Earlier this month, the administration convinced the high court to de-list two immigration cases: one over funding for the Mexican border wall, the other challenging Trump’s “remain in Mexico policy.”