White House officials and Democratic strategists are personally concerned about how Elon Musk’s hostile $44 billion takeover of Twitter will affect the 2024 presidential election — especially whether the billionaire will allow former President Donald Trump to return to the United States. platform.
Officials within President Joe Biden’s administration are closely monitoring the deal, according to more than half a dozen of Biden’s advisers, including two government officials. Some on Biden’s team are increasingly concerned that the Tesla CEO will allow Trump and other Republican agents who had been banned from Twitter to return to the platform, these people said, asking not to be identified. to speak freely about internal discussions between senior Democratic advisers.
Twitter’s board accepted Musk’s offer to take the social media company private, the company confirmed Monday. The deal is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.
“Freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where issues vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement in the press release announcing the deal.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment on Musk’s offer. Biden “has long been concerned about the power of major social media platforms” and supports “the implementation of antitrust reforms that require greater transparency,” Psaki said at a briefing Monday.
Members of Biden’s inner circle and party strategists are concerned about a rise in misinformation on the platform led by Musk and in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election, which could put Biden in a rematch against the former president, they said. people. Former President Barack Obama is among a group of Biden’s allies who are personally concerned that Musk’s takeover of Twitter could lead to Trump’s return to the platform, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“Now Trump will use Twitter to do a lot more damage to regain power in 2022 and 2024, while Elon Musk has given no indication that he will do anything to stop him,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a senior Democratic representative. strategist, to CNBC.
A strategist close to some of Silicon Valley’s biggest mega donors said “it’s not good” for the Democratic Party.
“He’s a great engineer and businessman, but I wouldn’t trust him with my daughter, let alone the millions of people who rely on Twitter for information,” this strategist said of Musk. Democrats could be on the brink of losing both the House and Senate in the upcoming 2022 Congressional midterm elections.
Press representatives for Twitter, the White House, Trump and Obama did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk did not respond to emails from CNBC about the matter.
Trump and those close to him continue to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen, despite officials from both sides of the political aisle, including former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr, noting that widespread voter fraud did not exist and Biden won the last elections fair.
Twitter permanently banned Trump, who has more than 88 million followers, from the platform for spreading false information accused of instigating the January 6, 2021 riots on Capitol Hill. Trump allies including veteran strategist Roger Stone, pro-Trump lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have also been banned.
Wood, who has said his South Carolina properties were meeting places for those seeking to undo the 2020 election, told CNBC in a text message that he would rejoin Twitter if Trump came back. “I would only rejoin if President Trump rejoined, which I think is highly unlikely,” Wood said.
Powell, who has pushed numerous bogus election conspiracies, told CNBC in an email that she would consider moving to get back on Twitter if the deal with Musk closes.
“I would consider returning, and I am delighted that someone interested in free speech is interested in reclaiming Twitter in the name of truth and freedom,” Powell said Monday after Twitter made the official announcement.
Musk has hinted that if he owned Twitter, there would be less content moderation by the company. “I think it’s really important that there’s an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said during a recent TED interview. “Twitter has become kind of a de facto city square, so it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they can speak freely within the bounds of the law.” Musk tweeted a similar stance on Monday, saying, “I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that’s what free speech means.”
Trump has said he won’t rejoin Twitter if Musk completes a purchase, but people close to him say they still expect the former president to move to get his account back anyway.
“No, I’m not going back on Twitter. I’ll be on Truth Social in a week. It’s on track. We’ve signed up a lot of people,” Trump said in a statement to CNBC. “I’m not going back on Twitter anymore.”
Alyssa Farah, who used to work in the Trump administration, said in a: tweet that she thinks Trump won’t be able to resist getting back on Twitter. “From a free speech perspective, I don’t see how you can keep him off Twitter,” she said.
One of those trying to convince Trump to get back on Twitter said his allies are encouraging the former president to invite Musk to Mar-a-Lago, his private Florida club, if Musk can close the deal.
Trump launched his own social media start-up, Truth Social, but it’s reportedly running into multiple hurdles, including executive departures and declining sign-ups to the app.
Musk had a close relationship with Trump when he was president, serving on two of the president’s advisory boards before stepping down when the US withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Trump later told CNBC that he considers Musk one of the world’s “great geniuses.”
Musk has repeatedly criticized Biden for failing to recognize Tesla’s role as a leader in the electric car industry.
“Biden has emphatically ignored Tesla at every turn,” Musk previously told CNBC. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Musk and his brother Kimball violated insider trading rules.
Republican strategists argue that a Musk purchase from Twitter could have a huge impact on their party in 2024. Mike Caputo, a longtime GOP adviser close to Trump, told CNBC the potential takeover by Musk is a “game changer.” for the Republicans.
Another strategist, who declined to be named, said Republican lawmakers and advisers are “giddy” about Musk’s potential purchase of Twitter, convinced that many of their views have been censored by Twitter.
“Republicans have long despised Twitter. The day of reckoning has arrived,” the strategist said.
A group of 18 House Republicans is asking Twitter’s board to keep all data related to Musk’s offer to buy the company, and to initiate a possible congressional investigation should the party regain majority this fall.