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Before Elon Musk’s purchase, GOP officials leaned on Twitter

Republican policymakers appeared to use intimidation tactics against Twitter when the company seemed skeptical about Elon Musk’s offer.


As recently as last week, there were reports that Twitter executives would turn to a “poison pill“ strategy to fend off a possible hostile takeover bid from Elon Musk. Gov. Ron DeSantis was not pleased.

The Florida Republican, who already tried and failed to create a policy intended to undermine the social-media giant, made some unexpected comments at a press conference that was ostensibly about education.

“We’re going to be looking at ways that the state of Florida can potentially be holding these Twitter board of directors accountable for breaching their fiduciary duties,” DeSantis said, unprompted, referring to Twitter shares in the state’s pension system. “So stay tuned on that.”

The governor added some praise for Musk, saying Twitter executives “can’t control” the billionaire, who would not use the company “to enforce orthodoxy and to basically prop up the regime and these failed legacy media outlets.”

That was a week ago today. A few days later, DeSantis’ former colleagues on Capitol Hill also took an interest in the possible sale of the social-media giant. CNBC reported on Friday:

A group of 18 House Republicans is asking Twitter’s board to preserve all records related to Elon Musk’s offer to buy the company, setting up a potential congressional probe should the party win back the majority this fall. In letters shared exclusively with CNBC, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee asked Twitter Board Chairman Bret Taylor and other members of the board to preserve any messages from official or personal accounts, including through encryption software, that relate to Twitter’s consideration of Musk’s offer.

The group of GOP lawmakers sending the letter was led by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who’s positioned to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if Republicans reclaim the majority in the chamber.

The letter specifically requested that Twitter executives “preserve all records and materials relating to Musk’s offer to purchase Twitter, including Twitter’s consideration and response to this offer, and Twitter’s evaluation of its shareholder interests with respect to Musk’s offer.”

The Republicans’ letter continued, “You should construe this preservation notice as an instruction to take all reasonable steps to prevent the destruction or alteration, whether intentionally or negligently, of all documents, communications, and other information, including electronic information and metadata, that is or may be potentially responsive to this congressional inquiry.”

Subtle it wasn’t. The letter signaled to Twitter that a House Republican majority — if voters elect one in the fall — intended to launch a congressional investigation into Twitter’s response to Musk’s proposal.

Media Matters’ Matt Gertz summarized the letter’s subtext this way: “Nice company you’ve got there; be a shame if something happened to it. Maybe you should save yourself some trouble and sell it to our buddy.”

To be sure, it might very well be a coincidence that Twitter accepted Musk’s offer one business day after the 18 House Republicans sent their letter. I’ve seen no evidence that one event led to the other, and it’s entirely possible that the company’s executives didn’t see or care about the missive from Capitol Hill.

But against a backdrop in which Florida Republicans retaliated against Disney for expressing an opinion they didn’t like, it's nevertheless striking to see GOP lawmakers appear to use intimidation tactics against Twitter when the company seemed skeptical about a purchase from a billionaire that Republicans see as an ideological ally.

The party’s approach to “gangster government” sure has changed over the last decade or so.

CORRECTION (April 26, 2022, 2:12 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of a Media Matters of America senior fellow. He is Matt Gertz, not Matt Gaetz.