United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday threw the weight of the White House behind Tesla Inc and its CEO Elon Musk after the electric carmaker reopened an assembly plant in California in defiance of local officials.
Trump took to Twitter, writing” “California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!”
Tesla did not immediately comment on Trump’s tweet.
On Monday, Musk announced that production was resuming at its plant in Freemont, California, despite county officials ordering it to stay closed. He said that he would join workers on the assembly line, writing on Twitter: “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
The Tesla chief and founder of SpaceX has been visceral in his opposition to lockdown measures, sparking controversy with his Twitter rants and telling analysts on a recent quarterly Tesla conference that sweeping stay-at-home orders were “facist”.
Trump, who is up for reelection in November, is anxious for the US economy to reopen. Some 33.5 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the seven weeks ending March 2, while the monthly tally for job losses in April was the worst ever recorded.
Trump has sparred with California for years over a series of issues, including immigration, vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, funding for high-speed rail and numerous environmental issues. He has also met with Musk on several occasions during his presidency.
In January, Trump told CNBC that Musk is “one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius.”
States and cities around the US are experimenting with ways to gradually lift lockdown restrictions and safely reopen their economies.
Major carmakers are beginning to reopen factories with Detroit’s Big Three set to reopen most US plants next week.
Musk over the weekend threatened to leave California for Texas or Nevada over his factory’s closure. His move has highlighted the competition for jobs and ignited a rush to woo the billionaire executive by states that have reopened their economies more quickly in response to encouragement from Trump.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said he spoke to Musk several days ago and that the Tesla founder’s concerns helped prompt the state to begin its phased reopening of manufacturing last week.
Tesla, which also has a vehicle plant in Shanghai and is building another in Berlin, on Saturday sued the county, alleging it had violated California’s constitution by defying Newsom’s orders allowing manufacturers to reopen.
In the past, Musk has discussed opening a second US factory outside California. In a tweet in February, he solicited comments on potentially opening a factory in Texas.