Former President Donald Trump acknowledged Monday that he thinks Chinese-owned social media app TikTok is a national security threat, but argued that banning it would further empower Facebook — which he called an “enemy of the people.”

“I do believe that,” Trump, 77, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in response to a question about him previously deeming TikTok a national security threat.

“I do believe it and we very much have to go into privacy and make sure that we are protecting the American people’s privacy and data rights,” the presumptive Republican nominee added. “But, you know, we also have that problem with other — you have that problem with Facebook and lots of other companies too.”

Trump then said banning TikTok is a “tough decision to make,” and that the absence of the popular app could only help Facebook.

“Frankly there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it,” he said. “There are a lot of users, that is, you know a lot of good, and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok, but the thing I don’t like, is without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger — and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people, along with a lot of the media.

“If you ban TikTok, Facebook and others, but mostly Facebook, will be a big beneficiary,” he added, arguing Facebook has been “very bad for the country” especially in terms of elections.

Trump spoke out as the House prepares to take up legislation this week that would ban companies like Apple and Google from offering TikTok web hosting in the US or making it available on their app stores unless parent company ByteDance divests itself within 180 days.

President Biden has said he would sign a bill to ban TikTok if it came to his desk amid continued concerns about the app’s use of data collected from US users.

Trump recently met with billionaire Republican donor and TikTok investor Jeff Yass at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The 45th president also claimed Monday he could have banned TikTok during his first term, but that he ultimately left it up to Congress.

“I could have banned TikTok. I had it banned just about, I could’ve gotten it done. But, you know, I said ‘I’ll leave it up to you, I didn’t push them too hard, because let them do their own research and development, and they decided not to do it,” he said.

Trump issued an executive order in August 2020 banning TikTok if ByteDance did not divest within 45 days, which was met by an onslaught of legal challenges.

Biden, upon entering office, revoked the order and instead ordered the secretary of commerce to launch an investigation into the app. In December 2022, the president signed legislation prohibiting the use of the app on devices owned by the federal government, except for some law enforcement, national security, or research purposes.

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