On Tuesday, Elon Musk confirmed it: He wants Donald Trump back on Twitter.
“I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump, I think that was a mistake,” Musk, who is in the process of buying the social media company, said at a Financial Times conference. “I would reverse the perma-ban. … 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.”
Which you might think, at first blush, is GREAT news for the former President. After all, he clearly misses the social media site since he was banned from it in the wake on the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol. He regularly puts out press releases – via his Save America PAC – that read exactly like his tweets once did.
Except, Trump has staked much of his post-presidential capital – political and otherwise – on a rival social media site known as Truth Social.
And if Trump gets back on Twitter, the rationale for Truth Social – always somewhat flimsy – totally disappears.
Which puts Trump on the horns of a difficult dilemma: Does he, for financial and pride reasons, stick to Truth Social? Or does he go back to Twitter – where his 80 million-plus followers are, presumably, waiting for him?
(Sidebar: Trump doesn’t have to make that decision today. Or tomorrow. Musk doesn’t own Twitter yet and, even under the fastest scenario, likely won’t for a while.)
Trump, to date, has insisted he is sticking with Truth Social. “I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,” Trump said in the immediate aftermath of reports of Musk purchasing the social media giant in April. “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.”
Which, well, OK. It would have been colossally dumb of Trump to abandon Truth Social before he even knew a) if Musk was actually going to buy Twitter and b) if Musk planned to reinstate him.
But now that the answer to both of those questions appears to be “yes,” Trump’s predicament is a bit more complicated. CNN’s Gabby Orr reported Tuesday that according to a person close to Trump, the former President is committed to Truth Social for now, but is polling allies on whether he should rejoin Twitter ahead of a potential 2024 White House run.
It’s also worth considering that Truth Social is not exactly lighting the social media world on fire.
Last month, The Washington Post ran a story headlined “Trump’s Truth Social in trouble as financial, technical woes mount” that included these lines:
“The app — a Twitter look-alike where posts are called ‘truths’ — has seen its downloads plunge so low that it has fallen off the App Store charts. The company is losing investors, executives and attention.”
In recent weeks, Trump has picked up the pace of posting on Truth Social. (He posted four truths in the last 24 hours, most touting the success of his candidate endorsements.) And the app is currently the seventh-most downloaded social media app on the Apple app store.
But viewed broadly, Truth Social is not succeeding. The special purpose acquisition company designed to take the company public – Digital World Acquisition Group – saw shares drop sharply in the wake of the news that Musk is buying Twitter. (The stock surged briefly when Trump began tweeting truthing on the platform at the end of last month. But the bump was short-lived.)
If money wasn’t a factor, this decision would be an easy one for Trump. He has an established and loyal base on Twitter and it will likely soon be owned by someone who has pledged to play up the free speech aspects of the site.
But money is a factor. We know that Trump is a) less rich than he was when he took over the presidency and b) has a narrowing list of revenue streams with his overall personal branding taking a hit due to his time in the White House.
Truth Social was, at least in theory, a solution to Trump’s potential cash flow issues. At least so far, it appears to be working. As Forbes wrote last month in an assessment of Trump’s net worth and Truth Social:
“Donald Trump, master of reinvention, has a new title: tech entrepreneur. It’s a stretch for the 75-year-old, who doesn’t even use email, preferring instead to scrawl notes in marker. But he doesn’t mind jumping into ventures in which he has little previous experience—and this gig should prove far more lucrative than the presidency. In fact, it has already boosted his net worth by $430 million.”
That’s 430 million reasons Trump has to not walk away from Truth Social. But the siren song of Twitter is getting louder and louder. And Musk seems intent on restoring Trump’s previous presence on the platform.
It’s a real problem for Trump. Whichever way he chooses, he loses – influence if he sticks with Truth Social and money if he goes back to Twitter.