Trump's return to Facebook will have far more sway on his 2024 chances than the likely indictment he faces
Former President Donald Trump has returned to Facebook.
On Friday, Trump used the platform to share a 12-second campaign video.
Trump had been suspended from Facebook following the January 6 insurrection.
For the first time since he was suspended following the violence on January 6, 2021 — and since Meta said in January that it would be lifting that suspension — former President Donald Trump has returned to using Facebook, posting a brief campaign video just days before a potential grand jury indictment in New York.
"I'M BACK!" the former president posted above the 12-second video, which urges viewers to support his 2024 campaign for the White House.
Facebook parent company Meta had suspended Trump after the January 6 insurrection, citing his praise of violent rioters that sought to overturn the 2020 election at his behest. At the time, the company said his actions constituted a "severe violation of our rules."
The company said this January, two years after the insurrection, that it was lifting the ban, stating that "the public should be able to hear what politicians are saying so they can make informed choices."
Meta's Nick Clegg, in an interview with Axios earlier this year, said Trump would be held to the same standards as any other user.
"In light of his violations, he now also faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses — penalties which will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol," Clegg said.
The threat of indictment looms
Trump's return comes amid speculation that he could be indicted as soon as next week, over the 2016 payment his fixer at the time, Michael Cohen, made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
As Insider's Laura Italiano has reported, legal observers, including former Manhattan prosecutors, believe Trump could face a first-degree charge of falsifying business records, a low-level felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison.
Cohen, who has repeatedly testified before a Manhattan grand jury, has said he made a $130,000 payment to Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to prevent her from speaking out about an alleged affair with Trump. The Trump Organization later paid Cohen $130,000 for what it said were "legal fees."
Trump has denied having any affair with Daniels and said he did not approve a "hush money" payment.
The timing of Trump's return to Facebook and potential indictment could end up working out well for the former president, who relied heavily on the platform to fundraise in his 2016 and 2020 campaigns, spending millions on ads.
"Facebook was the way Trump made so much of his money. That was one of his primary tools of campaign fundraising," Alison Dagnes, a political science professor at Shippensburg University and expert in political media, told Insider.
If he is indicted, she said that ties in very well with another of Trump's go-to fundraising tools: "grievance and victimization of himself."
"When he bangs that drum of: 'They are going after me. These are people you hate.' And you couple that with the fundraising, I think that's pretty huge," Dagnes added.
A chance to go after DeSantis
Returning to Facebook right now could also help Trump combat the rise of his most competitive challenger for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis, whose political star rose while enjoying the support of Trump, has since become one of the former president's favorite targets. Trump frequently attacks the governor of this home state on Truth Social, including as recently as Friday over how DeSantis pronounces his name.
But on Truth Social, the primary user base are already staunch Trump supporters, according to Dagnes. Rejoining Facebook allows Trump to access a much broader swath of the electorate, including some conservatives that may be leaning towards DeSantis. It also comes at a time when DeSantis, generally very popular in the GOP, was criticized this week by Republican senators over his comments about the war in Ukraine.
"Right now I think is the time that DeSantis is starting to show his weak sides," Dagnes said. "Not only does this garner Trump more attention, it also allows Trump to strike while the subject is wounded."
Ultimately, the return to Facebook, and the potential fundraising boon that comes with it, is likely to have a greater impact on Trump's 2024 prospects than a potential indictment, which at this point seems unlikely to sway his supporters or even those on the right who simply put up with him.
Dagnes said that being the first former president to be indicted would "crank up" his messaging and his ability to fundraise effectively by encouraging people to donate to his "legal defense fund" because "they're out to get me." And now, he can do that on Facebook, the platform that worked so well for him before.
"This turns on and hands him an electronic megaphone," she added. "And being indicted will only add gasoline to the fires that are existing."
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