Biden officials worry Trump will return to the platform

White House officials and Democratic strategists are privately concerned about how Elon Musk’s $ 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 platform.

Officials in President Joe Biden’s administration are keeping a close eye on the deal, according to more than half a dozen Biden advisers, including two officials in the administration. Some on Biden’s team are becoming more and more concerned that Tesla’s CEO will allow Trump and other Republican operators, who were banned from Twitter, to return to the platform, these people said, asking not to be identified in order to speak freely on internal discussions among senior Democratic advisers.

Twitter’s board accepted Musk’s offer to take the social media company private, the company confirmed Monday. The transaction is subject to shareholder and authority approval.

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital city square where issues crucial to humanity’s future are discussed,” Musk said in a statement included in the press release announcing the agreement.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment on Musk’s bid. Biden “has long been concerned about the power of major social media platforms” and supports “the adoption of antitrust reforms that require more transparency,” Psaki said at a briefing on Monday.

Members of Biden’s inner circle and party strategists are concerned about an increase in misinformation on the platform under Musk’s leadership and ahead of the 2024 presidential election, which could put Biden against the former president in a rematch, these people said. Former President Barack Obama is among a group of Biden allies who are privately concerned that Musk’s acquisition of Twitter could lead to Trump returning to the platform, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“Now Trump will use Twitter to do far 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 veteran Democrat strategist, to CNBC.

A strategist close to some of the party’s biggest Silicon Valley mega-donors said “it’s not good” for the Democratic Party.

“He’s a great engineer and businessman, but I would not trust him with my daughter let alone the millions of people who rely on Twitter for information,” this strategist said of Musk. Democrats may be on the verge of losing both Parliament and the Senate in the upcoming midterm elections to Congress in 2022.

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 case.

Trump and those close to him have continued to erroneously claim that the 2020 election was stolen, despite officials from both sides of the political aisle, including Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr, noting that widespread electoral fraud did not exist and that Biden won the last election fairly.

Twitter permanently banned Trump, who had more than 88 million followers, from the platform for spreading false information accused of inciting the riots on January 6, 2021 on Capitol Hill. Allies of Trump, including veteran strategist Roger Stone, pro-Trump attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn have also been banned.

Wood, who has said his properties in South Carolina were meeting places for those aiming to overthrow 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 pushed for several false election conspiracies, told CNBC in an email that she would consider moving to be reinstated on Twitter if the deal closes with Musk.

“I would consider returning, and I’m glad that anyone interested in free speech is interested in reclaiming Twitter in the name of truth and freedom,” Powell said Monday after Twitter announced the official announcement.

Musk has suggested that if he owned Twitter, there would be less content moderation of the company. “I think it’s very important that there is an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said during a recent TED interview. “Twitter has become a kind of de facto town square, so it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to 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 freedom of speech means.”

Trump has said he will not join Twitter again if Musk were to complete a purchase, but people close to him say they still expect the former president to move to get his account returned anyway. Alyssa Farah, who used to work in the Trump administration, said in one tweet that she believes Trump will not be able to resist coming back on Twitter. “From a free speech perspective, I can not see how you keep him away from Twitter,” she said.

One of the people aiming to persuade Trump to come back on Twitter said his ally is urging the former president to invite Musk to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, if Musk is capable of to close the agreement.

Trump launched his own startup on social media, Truth Social, but it reportedly runs into several obstacles, including departures from executives and declining sign-ups for the app.

Musk had a close relationship with Trump when he was president, and sat on two of the president’s advisory councils before resigning when the United States withdrew from the Paris climate deal. Trump later told CNBC that he considers Musk one of the “great geniuses” of the world.

Musk has repeatedly criticized Biden for failing to recognize Tesla’s role as a leader in the electric car industry.

“Biden has sharply ignored Tesla at every turn,” Musk told CNBC earlier. 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 of Twitter could have a massive impact on their party in 2024. Mike Caputo, a longtime GOP adviser close to Trump, told CNBC that Musk’s potential buyout is a “game changer” for Republicans.

Another strategist, who declined to be named, said Republican lawmakers and advisers are “dizzy” over Musk’s potential purchase of Twitter, convinced that many of their views have been censored by Twitter.

“Republicans have despised Twitter for a long time. The fiscal day has come,” the strategist said.

A group of 18 House Republicans is asking Twitter’s board to keep all records related to Musk’s offer to buy the company and establish a potential congressional inquiry if the party wins the majority back in the fall.

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