Former president Donald Trump has said he wouldn't rejoin Twitter, even if Elon Musk completes a $44 billion takeover of the company and rescinds his ban in the name of unfettered free speech.
But some of Trump's advisers don't believe he'd be able to stay away from the megaphone that fuelled his rise to the presidency - even though he owns a Twitter clone, Truth Social, that has staked its existence on the exclusive use of Trump's online brand.
Trump supporters have for weeks preemptively clung to Musk's interest in Twitter as a surprise blessing — a way to overturn not just Trump's ban but what they argue, without evidence, is the systemic censorship of conservatives across the platform.
Trump himself has been telling advisers in recent weeks that he won't rejoin the social network that banned him last year after the US Capitol riots, even if Musk upends the site's moderation policies. A Trump spokesman confirmed his comments Monday to Fox News that he planned to post exclusively to Truth Social in the coming weeks.
“I want everybody to come over to TRUTH — conservatives, liberals, whatever,” Trump told Fox News. “The response on TRUTH is much better than being on Twitter.”
Though Trump has publicly panned Twitter as boring and irrelevant, he still looks at the site often, mostly via printouts of tweets from politicians and journalists handed to him by his aides, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Trump's habits.
Trump regularly bemoans his lost reach — his Truth Social fan base is about 1% of his peak Twitter following — and complains that his comments now don't get as much pickup in public discussion or the press.
“Truth Social is working out its kinks, they are onboarding people... but he loved his Twitter,” said a Trump adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Musk has not directly commented on Trump's potential return to the service but has repeatedly said his goal is to safeguard the platform as a vehicle of free expression — comments widely understood to mean a looming retreat from current moderation policies and enforcement actions. A person familiar with the matter said Trump had not spoken with Musk in the lead-up to the deal.
But Musk's Twitter purchase on Monday inspired celebration among Trump supporters — and dread among those who fear his return to the White House — who argue Musk has championed the idea, including in a tweet to his 84 million followers on Monday, that the platform should allow its “worst critics" to stay on the site ”because that is what free speech means.“
In a statement Monday, Musk said, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” He did not explicitly mention Trump.
Trump's Twitter ban, occurring after months in which he boosted election-fraud conspiracy theories and encouraged fans to take direct action to keep Joe Biden from the White House, lost him direct access to nearly 89 million followers and spurred anger among Trump supporters who called it Big Tech censorship.
Some observers outside Trump's orbit said they doubt he could resist the temptation to use a service that might again help him dominate the online conversation in the 2024 presidential race.
The Washington Post