Trump Courts Young Voters by Joining TikTok He Tried to Ban

(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump joined TikTok, the Chinese-owned platform he tried to ban in the US, as the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee steps up efforts to reach young voters.

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Fresh from being convicted in the first criminal trial of a former US president, Trump made his debut on the video-sharing app with a 13-second clip alongside Ultimate Fighting Championship CEO Dana White. “It’s my honor,” Trump said in the video, which cuts to scenes of fans cheering for him at a UFC fight in Newark, New Jersey.

Trump, who polls suggest is leading President Joe Biden among voters in most of seven key swing states, has been seeking to shift attention away from his case since last week’s verdict.

He touted a 24-hour fundraising record of almost $53 million immediately after the jury found him guilty in the New York trial and announced an initiative to recruit volunteers to canvass neighborhoods leading up to the election in November.

A New York jury found Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush-money payment to a porn star, a conspiracy that prosecutors said deprived voters of vital information before the 2016 presidential election. Sentencing is set for July 11.

‘Breaking Point’

Asked about the risk of facing house arrest or jail time, Trump suggested it could provoke an outcry.

“I’m not sure the public would stand for it,” he said in a Fox News interview broadcast Sunday. “I think it would be tough for the public to take. You know at a certain point there’s a breaking point.”

Lara Trump, who has been the Republican National Committee’s co-chair since March, said her father-in-law’s supporters will “remain calm and protest at the ballot box on Nov. 5.”

“So they shouldn’t do anything until voting starts, and then they’re going to come out in droves,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Before Trump started his TikTok account, his main super political action committee joined last month.

“We will leave no front undefended and this represents the continued outreach to a younger audience consuming pro-Trump and anti-Biden content,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement Sunday.

TikTok’s fate has become a election-year issue as its Chinese parent, ByteDance Ltd., faces a deadline to sell its stake in the company or face a ban in US app stores. TikTok is suing the US government over the law, which was backed by congressional Republicans and Biden in a bid to address concerns that the Chinese government could access user data or influence what’s seen on the app.

More than 170 million Americans have accounts on the popular platform, according to the company, including many Gen-Z and millennial voters who both Biden and Trump have been courting. Biden’s decision to sign the divest-or-ban law has drawn blowback from younger voters on the app, including some influencers who have backed his reelection bid.

Trump has criticized Biden’s decision even though he tried to force a sale of the app as president. He blamed Biden for “banning TikTok” in a post on his social media platform in April, saying he was addressing “especially the young people.”

The former president and his allies have alleged that Google and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook engaged in election interference. There’s no evidence to support those claims.

--With assistance from Akayla Gardner.

(Updates with Trump’s “breaking point” comment in eighth paragraph.)

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