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U.S. judge sets new hearing on request to block Commerce Department WeChat order

Karen Freifeld and David Shepardson
·2 mins read
U.S. flag is seen on a smartphone in front of displayed Tik Tok and WeChat logos in this illustration
U.S. flag is seen on a smartphone in front of displayed Tik Tok and WeChat logos in this illustration

By Karen Freifeld and David Shepardson

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge in California said she plans to hold a new hearing Saturday on a request by WeChat users to temporarily block the Commerce Department order issued prohibiting U.S. app stores from offering Tencent Holding's WeChat for download starting late Sunday.

Earlier, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler issued an order declaring a request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by U.S. WeChat users appeared moot after the Commerce order.

Michael W. Bien, a lawyer for the WeChat users, said at a hearing Friday "the key is to maintain the status quo, to stop the ban from going into effect."

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network that "for all practical purposes, (WeChat) will be shut down in the U.S." as the order takes effect Sunday.

A Commerce official told Reuters WeChat would still work for existing U.S. users but would suffer some degraded functionality and sporadic outages.

Beeler directed lawyers for WeChat to file an amended complaint by late Friday to take into account the Commerce Department order. She directed the government to respond to WeChat users' new request.

The hearing is set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday so Beeler has time to decide whether to block the Commerce Department order from taking effect.

"The implementation is on Sunday and so we have to address the issue between now and sometime tomorrow afternoon," Beeler said.

The Justice Department in a court filing said Beeler should reject the request because President Donald Trump "has invoked his emergency powers to address (the WeChat) threat, and plaintiffs have articulated no legal basis for the Court to take the extraordinary step of enjoining his exercise of that authority."

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)