Donald Trump wants to return to the White House – and is fighting for his influence with the US Republicans. Now tech billionaire Elon Musk is giving him back the once influential Twitter account.

Twitter has unblocked former US President Donald Trump’s account, which has been suspended since early 2021. Shortly after announcing his renewed candidacy for the presidency, the Republican has regained access to a major online platform for the first time.

It was initially unclear whether he would make use of it. Because Trump had repeatedly emphasized that he would rather stay with his in-house service Truth Social – even if he were allowed to return to Twitter.

The ex-president was banned from Twitter and other online platforms after expressing sympathy for his rampaging supporters who violently stormed the Capitol in Washington. He had previously used these channels for months to spread his tale that his win against Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election was stolen through fraud. The platform operators feared at the time that Trump’s posts could lead to further violence.

24-hour survey of users

But the new Twitter owner Elon Musk has never made a secret of the fact that he considers the decision at the time to be fundamentally wrong. Musk tweeted a 24-hour poll among users of the service to vote on whether Trump’s profile should be restored. Just a few minutes after the result was announced – a slim majority had voted for the end of the ban – Trump’s profile was back. The last tweet there is from January 8, 2021. Trump announced that he would not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Trump’s account, which once had more than 80 million followers on Twitter and sometimes upset half the world with its unpredictable messages, was reset to zero in the number of subscribers. Shortly after it was activated, the “@realDonaldTrump” profile was followed by 1.4 million Twitter users again – then suddenly it was only around 700,000, and then it gradually went up again. The reason for the fluctuations initially remained unclear.

Trump is losing influence in his own ranks

Trump recently had around 4.6 million subscribers to the Twitter copy Truth Social. He can use a larger platform with more reach in view of the Republican nomination for the next presidential election. The 76-year-old, who had long dominated the party at will and marginalized critics, recently lost influence in his own ranks.

In the November 8 general and gubernatorial elections, voters rejected several candidates who had been heavily supported by him. Overall, the Republicans did not achieve the overwhelming triumph that many pollsters expected: They only narrowly won the majority in the House of Representatives and the Democrats were able to defend control of the Senate.

Since then, the voices of prominent Republicans have been increasing, calling for the Trump era to be finally ended in order to reconnect with more moderate voters beyond the hard core of his supporters. The newly re-elected governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is considered a promising rival who could pose a threat to Trump in the race for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.

At this very moment, Musk, who recently very openly expressed his sympathy for the political views of Trump’s Republicans, is giving the politically stricken ex-president the Twitter account back.

“The people have spoken,” the tech billionaire justified his decision after the survey ended. A narrow majority of 51.8 percent voted in favor of Trump’s return. However, the survey was not representative: around 15 million users took part in Musk’s 24-hour survey, while the service has more than 230 million daily active users according to the latest available information.

Musk has problems of his own that a Trump return could help with. According to him, after the costly Twitter takeover, advertising revenues collapsed. Companies fear that given the unrestricted freedom of speech Musk has promised, promoting their brands could end up alongside offensive tweets. The chaotic introduction of a new subscription system was stopped after the fuss about loud, deceptively real-looking accounts from brands and celebrities. Now, however, the controversy surrounding the restoration of Trump’s account alone is drawing attention to Twitter.

Twitter was a key communication channel for Trump

Trump used Twitter more intensively in his victorious 2016 election campaign than any candidate before him. And even during the time in the White House, the platform was his central communication channel, on which he repeatedly broke with the usances of statesmanlike behavior and at times slipped well below the belt. Trump ruled, promoted favorites and fired disgraced cabinet members via Twitter: It is legendary that his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson found out about his dismissal from a tweet by the President.

That ended after his supporters stormed the seat of the US Parliament on January 6, 2021. On that day, Joe Biden’s election victory was to be officially sealed in the Capitol. Because of the violent storming of the symbolic building, this only happened hours later.

Trump had nurtured false hopes among his supporters that Vice President Mike Pence could refuse to confirm the election results in Congress. During the attack, Trump tweeted that Pence didn’t have the courage to do the right thing. Afterwards, people in the crowd shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” That tweet pointed at Pence – and several others that could become problematic for Trump – are now missing from the reactivated profile. Trump’s debunked claims of a stolen election continue to come with cautionary tales.

Truth Social likes Trump much better

Until Musk took over, Twitter executives had always said that there was no way for the ex-president to return. Musk, on the other hand, had emphasized months ago that, in his view, there should be no lifetime bans on the service. He expressly mentioned Trump as an example.

Musk announced three weeks ago that a council on how to deal with controversial content should be formed before major accounts are restored. But now it was possible without such a body. Quasi single-handedly – a mode in which Musk and Trump have practice.

Trump himself has said repeatedly that he does not want to return to Twitter. He likes it much better at Truth Social. And on Saturday, shortly before the end of the survey, he recommended his followers to take part in it, but wrote: “We’re not going anywhere. Truth Social is special!” After the account was restored, Trump initially did not comment on his further course of action.

Facebook, where Trump has also been blocked since January 2021, wants to decide next January whether the ex-president could be offered a return.