Elon Musk’s renewed efforts to purchase Twitter could pave the way in which for President Donald Trump’s return to the platform that permanently banned him a 12 months earlier.
If Musk follows through on the deal — and if he stands by his prior plan to reverse Trump’s ban — the Republican ex-president could potentially resume tweeting in time to make an impact on the November midterm elections.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who offered to purchase Twitter for $54.20 a share in April but then tried to scrap the deal, this week signaled through a regulatory filing that he once more desires to proceed with the unique transaction. News of the deal, which continues to be not finalized, sent Twitter’s stock soaring.
Before getting cold feet on the deal over the summer, Musk said he planned to lift Trump’s Twitter ban if he took over the corporate. “I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said in May.
Twitter had shut down Trump’s account within the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, when a violent mob of Trump’s supporters, spurred by his false claims of a rigged election, stormed the U.S. Capitol and compelled lawmakers to flee their chambers for safety.
Trump, who now posts on an analogous platform he backed called Truth Social, has said he won’t return to Twitter even when he’s allowed back on. “I used to be disenchanted by the way in which I used to be treated by Twitter. I won’t be going back on Twitter,” Trump told CNBC in April.
But with Musk’s $44 billion Twitter buyout now back on the table, some consider Trump won’t give you the chance to withstand the allure of regaining an account that boasted nearly 90 million followers at its peak.
“In fact he’ll” return to Twitter if he can, Democratic strategist Kurt Bardella said of Trump.
The previous president is “a Twitter addict” who “loves the easy gratification” it offers, Bardella said, while noting that Truth Social has to date didn’t garner an analogous level of user engagement.
Trump’s Truth Social account, created in February, currently has 4.15 million followers.
Twitter’s suspension of Trump “took away his megaphone,” said Jonathan Nagler, co-director of NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics and a professor of politics. The tech giant’s move “lessened his ability to push bogus election fraud claims” and “incite motion against election officials,” he said.
“Truth Social, so far as anyone can tell, has had nowhere near the impact or reach that his Twitter account has had,” Nagler said.
Spokespeople for Trump, Musk, Twitter and Trump’s company behind Truth Social didn’t immediately reply to CNBC’s requests for comment.
Musk has not yet reiterated that he’ll lift Trump’s Twitter ban if the most recent buyout plans come to fruition. With sources telling CNBC that a deal could occur as soon as Friday, it’s possible Trump may very well be allowed to resume tweeting before the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
If that’s the case, Trump’s frequent musings concerning the midterms could soon be back on Twitter, reaching an audience that was once greater than 20 times the scale of his Truth Social following.
What’s more, Twitter is used rather more heavily by most media organizations and politicians, each within the U.S. and world wide. But Nagler warned Trump may not wish to be “100% beholden to Musk, the world’s richest man,” as his social media enabler.
“Elon Musk could change his mind as well,” Nagler said. “We’re attempting to predict the behavior of two people, each of who seem quite agile of their ability to shift what they plan to do.”
Still, Nagler said, Trump is more likely to rejoin Twitter if given a likelihood. “That might be my guess,” he said. “At the tip of the day, Trump likes to be heard … my guess is that will win out.”
A few of Trump’s conservative fans cheered the news that Musk was once more pushing to purchase Twitter. But not everyone seems to be so sure it’ll profit his allies.
“I believe it is going to cut each ways,” Nagler said. Trump’s tweets could possibly mobilize parts of his base to prove to the polls, but “his increased visibility may very well be a reminder to moderates of why they don’t want Republicans in office,” the professor said.
Bardella argued that Republican candidates have struggled “each time that Donald Trump has been the focal point.”
He pointed to the 2018 midterms and the more moderen Georgia special elections, which led to Democrats clinching a slim Senate majority. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, meanwhile, unseated a Democrat in a blue-leaning state by keeping Trump at arm’s length through the general election, Bardella said.
“The last item that Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy want the elections to be is a referendum on Donald Trump,” Bardella said. “Republicans have made it very clear, they need the conversation heading into the midterms to be concerning the economy, inflation and crime. They don’t need it to be about Donald Trump.”
Musk’s comments concerning the need for Twitter to be “politically neutral,” and his recently revealed correspondence with people pushing him to fight “woke-ism” and censorship on the platform, could also indicate how the location might change the way in which it previously handled Trump’s tweets.
Throughout the 2020 election, Twitter tried to combat misinformation by labeling certain accounts’ tweets with warnings and providing links with credible election information. Trump’s tweets were tagged multiple times, because the then-president frequently amplified a wide range of conspiratorial claims that his reelection probabilities were being threatened by rampant election fraud.