In recent days, the former president has privately mocked Musk for the negative media coverage of his Twitter leadership, according to two sources familiar with the situation. Additionally, Trump has said Twitter’s tumult could be a good business opportunity for his social media app, suggesting a larger share of MAGA users may migrate to his own “Truth Social.”
Since taking over Twitter a week ago, Musk has slashed the company’s workforce, dealt with an internal revolt, and botched early controversies over content moderation to the point where he’s facing calls for an advertiser boycott.
“The [former] president is not mad about it, I’ll say that much,” says one of the people familiar with the matter. “He’s said some [snide] things about Musk maybe not being such a great business titan after all.”
A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s glee at Musk’s mishaps comes as other online conservatives have railed against new leadership. Many appeared to have been expecting Twitter to instantly adopt a hands-off approach to content moderation under Musk, and the more modest moves have been deemed a disappointment. “Hey look it’s complete bullshit,” tweeted conservative podcaster Tim Pool after Musk said people who’d been kicked off Twitter previously would not immediately and unconditionally be allowed back on.
Some of Trump’s aides have joined in. Shortly after Musk took over the company, Trump’s social media advisor Dan Scavino wondered aloud why his former White House Twitter account was “suspended for unusual🧐activity!?”” Scavino did not respond to a request for comment.
After Musk’s Twitter deal closed, Trump used his Truth Social account to highlight that his social media app — which Google had just approved for its Android Play Store — became the most downloaded app. Truth Social’s traffic slumped in September and August and September to around 3.3 million unique visitors and still lags far behind Twitter, which has 238 million daily active users.
But the former president took his time at the top of the Play Store’s downloads as an opportunity to celebrate — and to dunk on Musk’s eye-popping price Twitter purchase price tag. “Look who’s Number One – Truth. Does that make it worth more than 44 Billion Dollars???,” Trump wrote.
Trump’s giddiness over Musk’s early setbacks is somewhat ironic, given how Truth Social has found itself beset by an assortment of struggles and delays. It similarly attracted a barrage of bad press for its shambolic roll-out — a protracted unveiling that Trump himself at times furiously trash-talked behind closed doors. Furthermore, Trump’s own alleged business acumen has also been critiqued over the years as built largely on deception and hype. That skepticism has grown over the years as Trump’s businesses have attracted various lawsuits, high-stakes investigations, and disastrous collapses.
Trump and Musk have run hot and cold in their public statements about each other over the course of the Twitter saga, oscillating between faint praise and barbs.
In public, Trump has remained cordial with Musk amid talk Trump might return to the platform that was instrumental in commandeering endless media attention during his romp through the 2016 republican primary. “I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “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.”
But the politeness in public is a recent development, following a summer of acrimony as Musk tried to purchase Twitter and backed out.
On his Truth Social account, Trump blasted the prospect of a Musk-led “probably illegal purchase of a crummy phony account loaded company, Fake Twitter” after the tech mogul claimed he “might never have voted for a Republican.” Musk, Trump claimed, had outed himself as a Trump voter in a conversation during his presidency.
When Musk signaled he’d back out of his attempt to purchase the company, Trump twisted the knife. Musk, Trump claimed, was a “bullshit artist” who “should focus on getting himself out of the Twitter mess because he could owe $44 billion for something that’s perhaps worthless.”
As president, Trump claimed, Musk came to the White House “asking me for help on all of his many subsidized projects, where it’s driverless cars that crash, or rocketships to nowhere, without which subsidies he’d be worthless.”
Musk has responded to the barbs with faint praise and the occasional barbed insult. Truth Social, he told the Financial Times, was “essentially a rightwing echo chamber” that “might as well be called Trumpet.” As for the former president himself, “I don’t hate the man, but it’s time for Trump to hang up his hat & sail into the sunset,” Musk tweeted.
Trump’s rivalry with Musk isn’t shared by all Republicans, though. Florida governor and Trump’s potential 2024 rival Ron DeSantis began courting Musk as he attempted to acquire Twitter over the summer. Text messages entered into evidence in Twitter’s now-defunct Delaware lawsuit against show DeSantis reached out to Musk via Joe Lonsdale, founder of the tech firm Palantir.
“Haha even Governor DeSantis just called me just now with ideas how to help you and outraged at the that board and saying the public is rooting for you,” Londsale texted Musk. “Let me know if you or somebody on your side wants to chat w him.”
“Haha cool,” Musk responded.