Four people were dead. The Capitol was in shambles. Several members of his team had resigned. His allies were quickly abandoning him.
Naturally, President Donald Trump was livid. About being locked out of his Twitter feed, that is.
Twitter and Facebook locked Trump’s accounts on Wednesday after he had used his social channels to incite a riot of his supporters at the U.S. Capitol. (On Friday, Twitter permanently banned the President of the United States.) Not long after, the outgoing, increasingly authoritarian Republican president grew increasingly upset about the social media giants robbing him of his online voice, according to two people familiar with the matter.
One of the sources said that since Wednesday, Trump has specifically complained that he was trying to send a tweet during his Twitter lockout, and that he was furious that he couldn’t. The other person familiar with the situation said the president privately claimed this was another instance of Big Tech silencing conservatives and trying to help cover up the “crime” of the century that occurred during the 2020 presidential election.
The imagined “crime” here is that he decisively lost the election to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, a victory that for two months Trump, his legal team, and swaths of the GOP have attempted, based on pure lies, to overturn.
Trump’s Twitter account was briefly unlocked on Thursday night. Then he was permanently banned late on Friday. His fixation on this underscores, yet again, a president hellbent on obsessing over his own petty grievances and personal desires for power and influence, even as his words and actions helped spur a widely-condemned storming of the Capitol, contributed to the Republican Party’s loss of Senate control and led to multiple resignations from his administration. This is all happening against a backdrop of a tanked U.S. economy and a still-raging coronavirus pandemic that Trump has continued to show no interest in helping to mitigate.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the matter and who have been in contact with Trump since Wednesday say he continues to insist he did absolutely nothing wrong, that senior officials and party leaders backing away from him are cowards, and that he also wants people to look into baseless rumors that antifa radicals infiltrated the MAGA protest and riot this week.
White House spokespeople did not provide comment for this story.
Critics inside and outside of the platforms have been pleading with the social media firms for years to restrict or take down Trump’s accounts, arguing that Trump’s peddling of dangerous disinformation and incitements to violence outweighed any free-speech concerns. (“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted in May during the Black Lives Matter protests.)
The platforms began labeling some posts as potentially erroneous. But for the most part, they left his feeds alone, even as those of his supporters came under increasing scrutiny. For instance, the social media platforms took down pages for the violent, pro-Trump QAnon cult in the fall. More recently, Twitter banned Lin Wood, a pro-Trump attorney who has waged his own effort to nullify Biden’s win. On rightist social network Parler, where he isn’t banned, Wood wrote, “Get the firing squad ready,” and that Vice President Mike Pence, now labeled a turncoat by Trump and his followers for his refusal to try to overturn Biden’s victory, “goes FIRST.”
“I am not at all surprised by Twitter suspending my account,” Wood told The Daily Beast on Thursday, adding, cryptically, “I know who did it and why.”
He supplied no evidence for this claim.
Since the election, Trump has used his social media channels to spread absurd conspiracy theories about the election results—and to push his most hardcore supporters into the streets. He tweeted on December 19, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” “Get smart Republicans. FIGHT!” he tweeted on that morning.
Even as his supporters were running wild through the Capitol, he pushed out a video on his social feeds falsely claiming that “we had an election that was stolen from us.” In a separate tweet, he wrote, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots.”
That was one of the messages that Twitter took down—and drove the decision to lock, and then ban, his account. Facebook quickly followed suit, and on Thursday, extended the suspension for at least two weeks.
“Lots of people could’ve and did predict that this would happen,” a source at Facebook told The Daily Beast, referring to the riot at the Capitol. “The possibility of it happening again was high, because this guy [Trump] is fucking nuts.”