White House officials and Democratic strategists privately worry about how Elon Musk’s hostile $44 billion Twitter takeover will affect the 2024 presidential election — particularly if the billionaire will allow former President Donald Trump to return to the platform.
Officials in President Joe Biden‘s administration are watching the deal closely, according to more than half a dozen Biden advisers, including two administration officials. Some members of Biden’s team are growing increasingly concerned that the Tesla CEO will allow Trump and other Republican operatives who were banned from Twitter to return to the platform, these people said. , asking not to be identified in order to speak freely about internal discussions between senior Democratic advisers. .
Twitter’s board has accepted Musk’s offer to take the social media company private, the company confirmed on Monday. The transaction is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.
“Free speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital public square where issues vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement included in the press release. press announcing the deal.
Members of Biden’s inner circle and party strategists fear misinformation will increase on Twitter under Musk’s leadership and ahead of the 2024 presidential election, which could pit Biden against the former president in a rematch, said these people. Former President Barack Obama is among a group of Biden allies 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 a lot more damage to regain power in 2022 and 2024 when Elon Musk has given no indication he will do anything to stop him,” Mary told CNBC. Anne Marsh, a seasoned Democratic strategist.
A strategist close to some of the party’s biggest megadonors in Silicon Valley said “it’s not good” for the Democratic Party.
“He’s a great engineer and businessman, but I wouldn’t trust my daughter to him, let alone the millions of people who rely on Twitter for information,” the strategist said of Musk. Democrats could be on the verge of losing both the House and the Senate in the upcoming congressional midterm elections in 2022.
Press representatives for Twitter, the White House and Obama did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk did not respond to emails from CNBC about it.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment when asked about Musk’s deal.
However, she said Biden “has long spoken about his concerns about the power of social media platforms, including Twitter, and others to spread misinformation,” she said during a Monday briefing. , adding that they should be held accountable.
Trump and those close to him have continued to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen, despite officials on both sides of the political aisle, including former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr, noting that voter fraud widespread did not exist and that Biden had won the last election fairly.
Twitter has permanently banned Trump, who has more than 88 million followers, from the fake news platform accused of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021 riot 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 were also banned.
Wood, who has said his properties in South Carolina are meeting places for those seeking to overturn the 2020 election, told CNBC in a text message that he would join Twitter if Trump returns. “I would only join if President Trump joined, which I think is highly unlikely,” Wood said.
Powell, who has pushed numerous fake campaign conspiracies, told CNBC in an email that she would consider moving to be reinstated on Twitter if the deal goes through with Musk.
“I would consider returning, and I’m thrilled that someone with an interest in free speech is interested in reclaiming Twitter in the name of truth and freedom,” Powell said Monday after Twitter’s official announcement.
Musk hinted that if he owned Twitter, there would be less content moderation by the company. “I think it’s very important that there is an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said in a recent TED interview. “Twitter has become a kind of de facto public square, so it’s very important that people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the confines 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 said he would not join Twitter if Musk were to complete a purchase, but those close to him say they still expect the former president to decide to get his account back anyway.
“No, I won’t be back on Twitter. I’ll be on Truth Social within the week. It’s on schedule. We have a lot of people signed up,” Trump said in a statement to CNBC. “I will not return to Twitter.”
Alyssa Farah, who worked in the Trump administration, said in a Tweeter that she believes Trump won’t be able to resist returning to Twitter. “From a free speech perspective, I don’t see how you take it away from Twitter,” she said.
One of the people aiming to persuade Trump to return on Twitter said his allies are encouraging the former president to invite Musk to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, if Musk is able to close the deal.
Trump launched his own social media startup, Truth Social, but it would face multiple hurdles, including executive departures and declining app signups.
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 United States withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Trump later told CNBC 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 vehicle industry.
“Biden pointedly ignored Tesla at every turn,” Musk previously told CNBC. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating whether Musk and his brother, Kimball, violated insider trading rules.
Republican strategists say a Musk buyout of Twitter could have a huge 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 were “stunned” by Musk’s potential Twitter purchase, believing many of their opinions had been censored by Twitter.
“Republicans have long despised Twitter. Judgment day has come,” the strategist said.
A group of 18 House Republicans are asking Twitter’s board to keep all records related to Musk’s bid to buy the company, setting up a possible congressional inquiry if the party regains a majority this fall .