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Trump's TikTok ban reversal comes after meeting megadonor who has stake in TikTok

As Donald Trump reverses his position on potentially banning TikTok ahead of an expected House vote this week on legislation that could lead to it being blocked in the U.S., the former president has been rebuilding his relationship with a GOP megadonor who reportedly has a major financial stake in the popular social media platform.

Trump met with the donor, hedge fund manager Jeff Yass, earlier this month at a Club for Growth donor retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 1.

The Club for Growth, a conservative political organization to which Yass has donated millions of dollars, has opposed anti-TikTok efforts.

The group's president last year wrote: "Giving the government the power to ban apps and pick and choose between competing apps is a huge restriction on phone freedom."

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The former president, who had originally spearheaded efforts to ban TikTok during his time in the White House, reversed his stance last week, posting on his own social media platform that getting rid of TikTok would benefit Facebook and that he doesn't want that to happen, suggesting Facebook is a bigger problem for the country.

"I don't want Facebook ... doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!" he wrote.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for more information about what motivated Trump's changing view, and it's not yet known what he and Yass discussed in their March 1 meeting.

But speaking at the Club for Growth retreat, Trump said Yass, in addition to Club for Growth President David McIntosh, had called him to invite him to the event, according to a video clip from that night obtained by ABC News.

Yass, who did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, owns a significant stake in in TikTok's China-based parent company ByteDance, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.

"I've supported libertarian and free market principles my entire adult life," Yass told the Journal then. "TikTok is about free speech and innovation, the epitome of libertarian and free market ideals. The idea of banning TikTok is an anathema to everything I believe."

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks in the library at Mar-a-Lago, Mar. 4, 2024, in Palm Beach, Fla. (Alon Skuy/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks in the library at Mar-a-Lago, Mar. 4, 2024, in Palm Beach, Fla. (Alon Skuy/Getty Images)

ByteDance has long been under scrutiny in the U.S. over concerns that TikTok's data could be accessed by the Chinese government, though TikTok has repeatedly denied sharing U.S. user data with the Chinese government or receiving a request along those lines.

Under the legislation currently being considered in Congress, ByteDance would be forced to sell TikTok to an American company for the social media platform to remain operating in the United States.

Last week, a House panel unanimously voted to send the bill to the floor for a full vote, with the legislation now set to be debated and voted on this week, and Biden has said he will sign the bill if Congress passes it.

It's not yet known what impact, if any, Trump's comments on the TikTok ban will have on lawmakers' views on the bill, and the future of the proposal in the Senate remains unclear as well.

MORE: Biden and Trump hold dueling rallies in battleground Georgia

On Monday morning on CNBC's Squawk Box, Trump spoke out against the potential TikTok ban, saying he believes TikTok is a national security risk because of its Chinese ties but that there are other apps that are risks as well -- and again saying he doesn't want Facebook to benefit.

At the same time, Trump bragged that he could have banned TikTok as president if he wanted to but that Congress wouldn't let him.

While in the White House, Trump signed an order calling on ByteDance to divest from TikTok's U.S. operations, but it was later blocked in court.

TikTok has defended itself by citing Project Texas, an initiative that the company said keeps all U.S. user data on servers within the country -- "outside the reach or influence of any foreign government."

The company also blasted the legislation in the House, saying in a statement: "This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs."

PHOTO: TikTok app logo on a mobile phone. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters, FILE)
PHOTO: TikTok app logo on a mobile phone. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters, FILE)

Trump 'back in love' with Club for Growth

Trump's shifting views on TikTok coincide with his mended relationship with Yass -- as well as with Yass' biggest beneficiary, the Club for Growth -- who had been on thin ice with the former president in recent years, especially after the Club for Growth clashed with Trump over multiple endorsements during the 2022 midterms.

And Yass, who was opposed to Trump earlier in the 2016 cycle but still bankrolled Club for Growth after the group supported Trump as the GOP's presumptive nominee, said in September 2022 that he was considering supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 nominating race, not Trump.

In 2023, Yass donated millions of dollars to a super PAC supporting Vivek Ramaswamy's presidential candidacy. Both Ramaswamy and DeSantis ended their campaigns in January.

At the Club for Growth's donor retreat earlier this month, Trump declared he was growing closer with Yass and McIntosh, saying, "We're back in love." That signals potentially significant support from the group in the coming months ahead of the November general election.

Politico reported on Saturday that Trump's former senior aide Kellyanne Conway has also been hired by Club for Growth in its defense of TikTok.

A source familiar confirms to ABC News that Conway, who works as a pollster, has been looking at data on the "public appetite for an outright ban," but not divestment.

In a statement to Politico, in part, Conway said, "Why would the GOP wish to be seen as the party of 'bans'?" She pointed the finger at the Biden administration, saying they pushed for bans on things like menthol cigarettes.

ABC News' Adam Carlson and Max Zahn contributed to this report.

Trump's TikTok ban reversal comes after meeting megadonor who has stake in TikTok originally appeared on abcnews.go.com