Elon Musk has become more Trumpier. A direct line to Trump could be the next step


Elon Musk has sought to accumulate political capital to match his extravagant wealth. Over the past year, Musk has spoken out publicly on global conflicts, meeting with numerous world leaders and U.S. senators to discuss artificial intelligence and its space and satellite technologies. And he wooed senior Chinese officials on their home turf.

He is now exploring what his next political project could be: becoming an advisor to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Musk considered advising Trump if he wins the 2024 election, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. Musk called Trump directly by cell phone to explore a role that could potentially give him significant influence over American politics. From the Journal’s reporting, it is unclear which party initiated discussions about the potential role.

The Trump campaign did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment; Musk also did not respond to the Wall Street Journal, but Brian Hughes, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, told the outlet: “President Trump will be the sole voice on the role an individual plays in his presidency.” »

Musk pushed back on the Journal’s report in an article published Thursday, saying, “There has been no discussion of a role for me in a potential Trump presidency.” »

However, a potential role in a future Trump administration could expand on the role Elon Musk played in the previous Trump administration, when he served on two business advisory boards before leaving them following the decision to Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

The privilege of talking into Trump’s ear, if re-elected, could give the billionaire — increasingly steeped in the rhetoric and imagery of conservative culture wars — even more power on the world stage. The announcement that relations between Musk and Trump have improved comes after Musk’s policies became more aligned with Trump’s.

Musk has made support for right-wing causes – and extremism, in some cases – increasingly central to his identity. He strongly opposed Covid-19 lockdowns and embraced anti-vaccine ideology. He elevated conservative discourse on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter that he purchased in 2022. And he pushed racist theories about immigration.

Musk is also obsessed with the “woke-mind virus,” a term used by some conservatives to describe progressive causes. And he explicitly called for Republican victories at the polls, warning of the country’s impending “disaster” if a “red wave” did not materialize in November.

A more formal alliance with Trump would mark the culmination of Musk’s long, winding quest for political relevance — and could greatly benefit his empire of companies that rely on government support.

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Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump.

Musk’s various companies, including SpaceX and Tesla, benefit from direct government contracts and federal grants. Their fortunes may rise or fall depending on U.S. policies governing energy, electric vehicles and the broader economy.

The fact that Musk has a direct, private line to future President Trump “would appear to be a blatant conflict of interest,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow in the governance studies program at the Brookings Institution.

The U.S. government regularly solicits input from the private sector, and in the past, presidents have sought input from CEOs and even appointed business leaders to cabinet positions. But these are official roles that require government officials to place their assets in blind trusts.

Less formal roles for business leaders are often organized boards such as those Musk previously participated in. In these advisory councils, dozens of stakeholders are invited to give their opinions; They frequently involve competitors or rivals and the procedures are relatively transparent, West said.

Musk’s potential deal with Trump could be problematic because of the combination of personal business interests with exclusive access, where influence could be unlimited and immune from scrutiny, West added.

Additionally, Musk and his companies are currently the target of several federal investigations – led by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Justice, to name a few. some. Musk and his companies have repeatedly gone to court to challenge aspects of these investigations, but they have been largely rejected.

It would be egregious for Trump to intervene to disrupt or delay any of these investigations, but even the perception of improper influence would be very damaging, West said.

“It destroys the rule of law if a businessman can make a deal with a president to protect his own business interests,” West said. “The whole point of capitalism is fair play and people don’t get any special advantages, and there is a risk that we lose that advantage.”

Meanwhile, Musk’s views on social issues don’t necessarily influence Trump in a different direction, given how much they appear to overlap, but the billionaire’s penchant for extreme rhetoric could give Trump political cover for a controversial action as president.

Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images

Migrants wait in line to be transferred by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing the Bravo River in El Paso, Texas, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, April 18, 2024.

Musk’s management of Twitter – now known as X – reflects his own shift to the right.

One of Musk’s first moves after purchasing Twitter in 2022 was to reinstate Donald Trump’s account, after the former president was suspended for inciting hatred following the attack on 6 January 2021 against the US Capitol.

Since then, Musk has not used his widely followed X account to support a specific US presidential candidate and said in a March post that he had no plans to donate money to “either candidate for the presidency of the United States.” But he has criticized Biden repeatedly. This week, he has regularly denounced his policies on the border and immigration between the United States and Mexico.

The billionaire has used his platform to promote right-wing political candidates, including hosting the presidential campaign launch for Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who later dropped out of the race, as well as a live chat with hopeful of a third party, Robert Kennedy, Jr..

Musk also repeatedly amplified the comments of hate groups (for which Musk later apologized).

Aside from his own posts, many of Musk’s changes to X have also contributed to a rightward shift in the platform’s culture.

He reinstated the suspended accounts of white supremacists and conspiracy theorists, saying at the time that he was responding to the wishes of users on the platform who expressed their opinions through an unscientific poll posted by Musk from his account. X also allowed politicians and political candidates to more easily benefit from exemptions from media value of Twitter rules, while their content would have otherwise been limited or deleted.

Under Musk’s leadership, based on their popularity. Most users willing to spend $8 a month for a Checkmark are those who are ideologically aligned with the billionaire – whose views are now high on the platform.

In some cases, the policy change appears to encourage problematic behavior: the more extreme or outlandish a post is, the more engagement it is likely to generate and therefore the more likely the poster is to receive a significant share of advertising revenue if it did it. paid a blue check.

Musk modifies the CCDH).

X sued CCDH last year for allegedly trying to drive away advertisers by publishing reports criticizing the platform’s response to hateful content; CCDH won in March, when a federal judge threw out the case and criticized X for trying to silence the group under a mountain of litigation.

Biden aides told Politico last year that the president’s campaign viewed X as an increasingly hostile platform, although there were no plans to stop posting there.

The Biden campaign on Thursday blasted the idea of ​​a collaboration between Musk and Trump.

“Despite what Donald Trump thinks, America is not for sale to billionaires, oil and gas executives, or even Elon Musk,” Biden-Harris 2024 spokesperson James Singer said. in a press release. “Trump is betraying America to pay his legal fees and put himself in power, while all the billionaires like Elon are fools: they know that if they cut his campaign checks, he will cut their taxes while he cuts social security and other benefits for the middle class.

CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.

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