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Musk finds Trump in his corner


Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskOn The Money: McConnell brushes off fifth coronavirus bill as Democrats prepare massive plan | Coronavirus cases expanding in states preparing to reopen | Mnuchin: States can borrow to cover revenue lost to coronavirus Hillicon Valley: FBI, DHS to accuse China of hacking virus researchers | Warren warns of COVID-19 threats to elections | Musk reopening California Tesla factory against state orders Elon Musk reopening California factory against county order MORE is escalating his public opposition to government efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and in doing so he’s found a cheerleader in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to visit Pennsylvania medical equipment distributor on Thursday Trump camp outraged over Jezebel article calling for Stephen Miller to get coronavirus McConnell: Obama ‘should have kept his mouth shut’ on Trump’s coronavirus response MORE.

Musk recently announced he would reopen a Tesla plant in California against county orders and would move operations out of the state if he meets resistance. On Monday night, he tweeted that he would reopen the facility in Fremont, offering himself up to arrest if Alameda County officials decided to block his move.

The tweets from the mercurial CEO were the latest in a series of outbursts that have drawn attention and scrutiny. But this time, his efforts were met with support from Trump, whose administration is eager to move past the pandemic and reopen businesses across the country.

“California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: McConnell brushes off fifth coronavirus bill as Democrats prepare massive plan | Coronavirus cases expanding in states preparing to reopen | Mnuchin: States can borrow to cover revenue lost to coronavirus The 8 key provisions expected in Democrats’ next COVID-19 bill Mnuchin: States can borrow to cover revenue lost to coronavirus MORE also voiced his support for Musk, telling CNBC on Monday that “California should prioritize doing whatever they need to do to solve those health issues so that he can open quickly and safely, or they’re going to find, as he’s threatened, he’s moving his production to a different state.”

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump camp outraged over Jezebel article calling for Stephen Miller to get coronavirus Scarborough apologizes to Pence, Cruz after heated Twitter feud Sen. Lamar Alexander to self-quarantine after staff member tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Texas) encouraged Musk to move Tesla’s operations to Texas, where residents “very much want to open up and get back to work.”

Trump has praised Musk before, calling him one of the world’s “great geniuses” during a CNBC interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year.

Early in Trump’s presidency, Musk joined a White House advisory council but later left when Trump announced he would be pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

That move by Musk was more in line with his earlier views on Trump. A few days before the 2016 election, Musk told CNBC that Trump “is probably not the right guy” to be president, adding that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonKamala Harris leads the list of Biden running mates Sanders says another presidential run is ‘very, very unlikely’ Sanders says he has ‘stayed away from’ Biden’s VP search MORE’s economic and environmental policies “are the right ones.”

But whether Trump’s latest embrace of Musk will help the entrepreneur prevail in California is yet to be seen.

The electric car CEO has been in a long-brewing feud with local and state officials over coronavirus-related ordinances. His Fremont factory shut down in late March, shortly after Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomHillicon Valley: FBI, DHS to accuse China of hacking virus researchers | Warren warns of COVID-19 threats to elections | Musk reopening California Tesla factory against state orders Western states ask Congress for trillion in coronavirus relief Elon Musk reopening California factory against county order MORE (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

The factory remained closed through April, when Musk frequently voiced his displeasure with the stay-at-home orders, calling the public health measures “fascist” during a Tesla earnings call.

Earlier this month, California updated its guidance on manufacturing, allowing some factories to reopen but giving precedence to county-level restrictions.

Alameda County, as well as the five other Bay Area counties, have opted to keep factories closed. A spokesperson for County Supervisor Scott Haggerty told The Hill that the county was close to an agreement with Tesla to reopen the plant next week.

Over the weekend, Musk took steps to oppose the recent closure order. First, he fired off a series of tweets threatening to move Tesla’s operations to Texas and Nevada.

Then, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alameda County seeking an injunction that would allow it to operate, alleging the county violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Later that evening, the company issued a statement saying production would resume with new social distancing procedures and on-site temperature checks.

On Monday, Musk made his reopening announcement.

“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” he tweeted. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Alameda County spokeswoman Neetu Balram said Monday that the county would work with Tesla to prevent the situation from escalating.

“We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the Order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures,” she said in a statement.

The Hill has reached out to the Fremont Police Department, which would be tasked with enforcing the factory closure order. Fremont’s mayor has expressed support for reopening the plant.

State and county public health officials aren’t the only ones Musk has criticized throughout the pandemic.

He has frequently sought to diminish the threat of the coronavirus, at one point tweeting that there would be close to zero new cases by the end of April. He also called panic around the pandemic “dumb.”

Musk’s online remarks have been a lightning rod for controversy before, sometimes landing him in legal hot water.

In 2018, he tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share. It turned out there was no solid plan, and he eventually reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission agreeing to step down as Tesla’s chairman.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted that Tesla’s stock price was “too high,” sending shares plummeting.

But Musk’s feud with public health officials is unlikely to hurt Tesla’s bottom line, according to Brad Gastwirth, chief technology strategist at Wedbush Securities.

“The factory reaction won’t be the major driver for the stock,” he said. “Think about what he’s done in the past. I think it’s a little aggressive, but it’s not so outrageously different than some of the things he’s done before.”



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