Twitter will hand @POTUS to Biden on Inauguration Day, even if Trump doesn’t concede

By Nancy Scola
·3 min read

The presidential @POTUS Twitter handle will automatically transfer to President-elect Joe Biden the moment he’s sworn in at noon on Inauguration Day — whether or not President Donald Trump has conceded, the company confirmed to POLITICO on Friday.

Same goes for @whitehouse, @VP, @FLOTUS, and a handful other official accounts associated with the presidency.

“Twitter is actively preparing to support the transition of White House institutional Twitter accounts on January 20th, 2021,” Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said in an email. “As we did for the presidential transition in 2017, this process is being done in close consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration.”

The handover requires no sharing of information between the outgoing Trump team and incoming Biden team, according to the company. All existing tweets on those accounts will be archived and Twitter will transfer the accounts — reset to zero tweets — to the Biden White House that day.

Why it matters: Trump has protested Biden’s victory, even though results released by election officials clearly give the race to Biden. GSA, the federal agency responsible for triggering the start of the formal presidential transition process, has thus far declined to do so. That has delayed the Biden team’s access to everything from office space and to government email addresses, and even blocked them from using the .gov domain to host an official transition website.

But even should Trump continue to contest his loss and fight his removal from the White House on Jan. 20, he won’t have a say in whether he hangs on to one of the presidency’s main digital assets.

The dynamic is a reflection of the hugely consequential role Twitter has played in American politics in the Trump era, and the considerable power the company wields.

Why it might not matter: President Trump has used his personal account, @realDonaldTrump, for most of his tweeting even while president. Trump, as a private citizen, will keep control of that account.

That said, the account will lose the protections it carries under Twitter’s "world leaders" policy — which allows rule-breaking tweets to remain up, with warning labels — the moment that Biden is sworn in to office.

What’s next: Twitter said its representatives will meet with Biden-Harris transition officials in the coming months to discuss the particulars of how the new administrations will use Twitter.

Before election day in 2016, the Obama White House published a robust plan for the transition of its digital assets to the next President of the United States.

When President Barack Obama left office in 2017 to make way for Trump, the Obama White House accounts were shifted to archived accounts under the management of the National Archives and Records Administration. For example, President Obama’s tweets that had lived at @POTUS were housed under @POTUS44, and the account locked.

The Trump White House has so far refused to engage in public discussion of the particulars of the presidential transition, which includes what will happen with digital assets like government Twitter accounts.