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Former President Donald Trump will discover on Wednesday whether he will be allowed to return to Facebook or remain permanently banned when the company’s Oversight Board announces its ruling on the matter.
The 45th president was indefinitely suspended from both Facebook and Twitter in January following the US Capitol riot, which saw a mob of his supporters lay siege to the legislative complex in Washington, DC, in a bid to stop Congress ratifying November’s election results, its participants labouring under the delusion that Joe Biden had only won the race for the White House thanks to widespread voter fraud, a claim for which no evidence was ever found.
Just prior to the attempted insurrection, Mr Trump had addressed a “Stop the Steal” rally nearby in which he encouraged this false narrative and urged the crowd to “fight” for him and march on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Five people died in the ensuing melee, prompting the Silicon Valley giants to act against the outgoing president.
While the Facebook ban concerned two posts in particular pushing his false claims about Democratic election-rigging, Media Matters has since reported that almost a quarter of his 6,081 posts on the platform between 1 January 2020 and 6 January 2021 contained misinformation about Covid-19, the election or his opponents or other extremist rhetoric, all of which posed a potential danger to the public and any of which might have proved the basis for suspension.
The site did also move against Mr Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, now a Fox News pundit, in late March after she posted a video interview with him on her page, only for it to be abruptly taken down for violating the conditions of his block.
Since being de-platformed, the former commander-in-chief has cut a solitary and diminished figure, leaving DC to take up residence at his private club at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, playing golf and indulging his appetite for classic American junk food with abandon.
While finally free from the spotlight of the “fake news” media that he felt so undermined his time in the Oval Office with constant criticism and political bias, the ex-president now spends his days mingling with maskless guests at the resort and posing for selfies like a retired boxer at a Las Vegas casino, many making lavish claims about the robust state of his health and inviting derision for their sycophancy in return.
Sylvester Stallone reportedly recently joined the club and Mr Trump’s children Ivanka and Donald Jr have moved down to the Sunshine State to coordinate future political activities from Mar-a-Lago, a venue his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen recently mocked as “Magastan” in conversation with The Daily Beast’s New Abnormal podcast.
As this might suggest, the ex-president appears to not be entirely at peace with losing his political influence and continues to host the likes of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and populist Texas Senator Ted Cruz, apparently plotting his glorious return to the campaign trail in 2024 to deliver the Republican Party from the rudderless irrelevance and division it has drifted into without his leadership.
He has also repeatedly called into right-wing cable news shows on Fox and Newsmax to remind viewers of his existence, most recently hailing himself as “the father of the vaccine” in conversation with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business in an interview in which he repeatedly attacked President Biden over his handling of asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border in astonishingly brazen fashion, as though his own record of “zero tolerance” enforcement policies and practice of placing children in detention centre cages were long forgotten.
In one interview with Greg Kelly of Newsmax in mid-February, he claimed that Twitter had become “very boring” without him, sounding hurt and resentful about the loss of his 89m followers on a platform he used to insult his rivals, sack Cabinet secretaries and reset the news agenda on a whim throughout his presidency.
A month later, his adviser and former campaign manager Jason Miller was telling Howard Kurtz on Fox that Mr Trump was planning to establish a social network of his own that would “completely redefine the game” but declined to give specifics.
Nothing further has emerged about the venture since but Mr Trump might well have been watching how his most ardent supporter Mike Lindell, the eccentric founder of MyPillow, has struggled to set up his own new platform catering exclusively to conservatives and thought better of it.
Mr Trump has, though, launched “From the Desk of Donald J Trump”, a website described as a glorified blog on which he can file short posts and which features an enjoyably absurd logo of himself apparently writing directly into a large ledger with his trademark Sharpie, last seen on the Resolute Desk after being used to “correct” a hurricane weather map.
He has so far used the site to carry on attacking the likes of CNN, GOP enemies Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney and California Democrat Eric Swalwell much as he would once have done on Twitter, only this time reaching a far smaller audience.
Outside of this rather outmoded online journal and odd Cameo-like appearances talking to YouTuber Jake Paul on FaceTime, he has been busy issuing press releases, a format he now claims to prefer to tweets as more “elegant”.
Highlights so far have included an appeal to boycott Coca-Cola over its opposition to new voting laws in Georgia (widely felt to be prejudicial to African Americans) with which was enclosed a photograph including a bottle of Diet Coke clearly visible on his desk behind a telephone, a defence of his former attorney Rudy Giuliani after the FBI raided his offices, and a nonsensical rant about last week’s Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.
But the former president has only made one meaningful political address since departing in his private jet from Joint Base Andrews on 20 January to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.
That came at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, an event at which a garish golden statue of Mr Trump in Stars-and-Stripes boxer shorts was unveiled by Republicans with little self-awareness left – or knowledge of Biblical precedent.
If he is serious about running for political office again, following a disastrous presidency defined by half a million people lost to the pandemic and an unprecedented second impeachment, Mr Trump risks finding himself very rusty indeed.