WASHINGTON ― Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was no fan of Donald Trump’s incendiary tweets, repeatedly expressing concern over the former president’s attacks on fellow Republicans, Democrats and people of color, and even calling one post “appalling.”
But now that Tesla CEO and self-styled free speech advocate Elon Musk is buying Twitter, the moderate Republican says Trump’s Twitter account should be reinstated.
“Although I obviously don’t agree with a lot of President Trump’s tweets, I do think he should have his account back. To me, it’s ironic that we allow Russian government sites to be on Twitter, but we don’t allow President Trump,” Collins told HuffPost on Tuesday, questioning what she called “uneven” standards the social media company applied to boot Trump from the platform.
Trump’s social media accounts were suspended following his supporters’ Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as Congress met to certify the 2020 presidential election result. Republicans have railed about censorship and holding Big Tech accountable ever since.
But Trump being off Twitter has, in many ways, made Republicans’ lives significantly easier. They’re no longer being asked about Trump’s tweets in hallways on Capitol Hill and having his remarks drive the news cycle, drowning out their preferred message for the day.
One would think they’d rather not deal with Trump-driven headaches again, but none would say so publicly on Tuesday. Most GOP senators either deferred to Musk, saying it was up to him, or dodged the question.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) noted, perhaps hopefully, that Trump told Fox News he had no plan to return to Twitter even if he is allowed back on, a report that was met with skepticism
“He wants to be with the ‘Truth,’ whatever that is,” Cornyn said, referring to Trump’s new social media venture, Truth Social, which has struggled to get off the ground.
Even Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another fierce Trump critic, declined to weigh in.
“I’m not getting into that battle, sorry,” Romney said.
Only a few GOP lawmakers said they thought Trump should be allowed back on Twitter.
“If Iranian leaders can be on and the Russians are going to be, I think that President Trump should be,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Musk should “absolutely” let Trump return, calling the purchase “the most important development for free speech in decades.”
In general, Republicans have hailed Musk’s purchase of Twitter, viewing it as an advantageous development in the GOP battle against the supposed censorship from Big Tech.
And Musk has held himself out as a savior of free speech, calling Twitter “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” in a press release where he also said he would improve the product.
But Musk so far has not said what he will do about Trump, and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, when an employee asked him about removing the ban, admitted that “we don’t know which direction the platform will go.”
One Republican organization didn’t hesitate to jump on the possibility of Trump returning to Twitter: the National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRCC sent out a fundraising petition to its members on Tuesday “demanding” that Musk reinstate Trump.
Many Republicans, however, would rather stay out of it.
“I’m going to leave that up Elon Musk,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said. “I’ve had a lot of people just think because he’s purchased Twitter that something bad’s going to happen, but we should point to SpaceX Starlink and Tesla, where he’s figured out how to run reasonably competent companies.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a Trump ally, similarly deferred to Musk on the matter.
“Based on what Musk has said, I would think the ex-president would get reinstated, but I don’t have a view on [it],” Hawley told HuffPost.