By Helen Coster and Sheila Dang
(Reuters) -Former President Donald Trump returned to the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, with a post on Thursday showing his mug shot from his booking at Fulton County Jail in Georgia earlier in the day.
With his post appealing for donations, Trump reclaimed direct access to the public on the platform that banned him following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress by his supporters.
On Nov. 19 the San Francisco-based app reversed its position under billionaire Elon Musk, the self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” who bought Twitter on Oct. 2.
Trump, who had over 88 million followers when Twitter banned him, posted a photo on Thursday of the mug shot with the words: “ELECTION INTERFERENCE! NEVER SURRENDER!” The post garnered more than 14 million views 50 minutes after going live.
Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account in January 2021, citing the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
He used Twitter and other social media platforms to claim his defeat in the 2020 election was due to widespread voter fraud and to share other conspiracy theories.
On Nov. 15 Trump launched a bid to regain the White House in 2024.
On Wednesday, Trump opted out of a Republican primary debate on Fox News, attracting millions of viewers who watched – or at least scrolled by – a rival interview on X.
That 46-minute conversation with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson had drawn nearly 250 million views as of Thursday night, according to the site’s statistics.
On Thursday evening, Trump broke from a vow that he would stick exclusively with his new platform Truth Social, the app developed by his Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) startup. Trump had 6.4 million followers on Truth Social as of Thursday.
Truth Social has been Trump’s main source of direct communication with his followers since he began posting on the app regularly in May. The former president has used Truth Social to promote his allies, criticize his opponents and defend his reputation amid legal scrutiny from state, congressional and federal investigators.
A year ago, TMTG announced a deal to go public by merging with Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC), a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The deal – which would infuse TMTG with $1.3 billion in cash – is now in doubt amid investigations by the Department of Justice and SEC, which have delayed its closing.
Trump’s company faces a crucial deadline when shareholders of DWAC have until 10 a.m., Sept. 5 to vote to extend the period of time DWAC has to complete its merger with TMTG. If DWAC does not get the votes, the SPAC will liquidate on Sept. 8.
Trump sued Twitter in 2021 over his suspension from the platform, arguing the move violated his right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
A U.S. judge in California dismissed the case, and a federal appeals court in Pasadena, California, is set to take up the dispute on Oct. 4. Attorneys for Trump have said his claims are still viable, and can be ruled on by the appeals court, despite his reinstatement to the platform.
(Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Costas Pitas and Mike Scarcella; Editing by Howard Goller and Stephen Coates)