Elon Musk’s decision this week to once again move forward with his deal to acquire Twitter could see the return to the platform of former President Donald Trump, once the world’s most influential tweeter.
While Trump has previously said he would stay on his own social media platform, Truth Social, rather than return to Twitter, the former president may find the lure of tens of millions of Twitter followers difficult to resist.
“I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump; I think that was a mistake,” Musk said at a conference in May, pledging to reverse the ban were he to become the company’s owner.
Despite agreeing to take over the company earlier this year, Musk soured on the idea over the summer and spent months battling to get out of it. Twitter sued him to force him to complete the deal. His U-turn and decision to go ahead with buying the company came to light in a securities filing Tuesday, just two weeks before he and Twitter are due to go to court.
Twitter said Tuesday it was intent on closing the deal, opening the possibility that Musk could take over the company within weeks, if the deal is completed. The company’s board and shareholders had previously approved the deal, but uncertainties remain. Twitter will have to decide how to play ball with Musk, taking into account his prior waffling on the deal — a negotiation process that could come down to how to ensure the world’s richest man will actually cut a check this time.
If the deal goes through, it could soon return to Trump what was once his preferred social media platform. Trump, whose tweets as president often drove the agenda in Washington, DC, had almost 90 million followers before he was banned permanently by the platform two days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol. (It’s unclear whether Trump would automatically regain his followers if unbanned.) Twitter said it made the decision “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Speaking in May, a few weeks after he began his bid to take over Twitter, Musk argued, “Banning Trump from Twitter didn’t end Trump’s voice, it will amplify it among the right and this is why it’s morally wrong and flat out stupid.” (Musk has also said he’s against permanent bans more broadly, which could open the door for far-right personalities and conspiracy theorists to return to the platform.)
Jack Dorsey, who was the CEO of Twitter when the company banned Trump but has since left the company, responded to Musk’s comments saying he agreed that there should not be permanent bans. He said Trump’s ban was a “business decision” and it “shouldn’t have been.”
Musk’s comments came just as Trump was about to begin posting on his own social media platform, Truth Social. Trump told Fox News at the time that he would not return to Twitter, even if he were allowed.
“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on Truth,” Trump told Fox News. He added, “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on Truth.”
But relations between the pair seem to have soured since, with the men publicly trading barbs over the summer. After Trump called Musk a “bullsh*t artist” at a rally in July, Musk responded by tweet, writing, “I don’t hate the man, but it’s time for Trump to hang up his hat & sail into the sunset.”
Trump has not commented on Musk’s decision to revive the deal this week.
Trump’s potential return to Twitter comes just a few months before he could also be allowed to return to Meta’s Facebook and Instagram. Unlike Twitter, which said it had permanently banned Trump, Meta (formerly Facebook) said it would review its ban after two years – meaning the former president could be returning to its platforms as soon as January 2023, just as the next presidential race is set to begin.