Trump backs Elon Musk's decision to reopen California plant in defiance of coronavirus closure order
President Donald J. Trump has expressed support for tech mogul Elon Musk after the Tesla CEO defied California's coronavirus lockdown restrictions and reopened his main plant in the state.
"California should let Tesla and @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, ABC 7 reports.
This comes after Musk announced the previous day he had gone "against Alameda County rules" and resumed production in his Fremont facility, despite it being ordered to remain closed until June during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I will be on the line with everyone else," Musk wrote on Twitter. "If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me," he declared.
This comes as the latest salvo in the ongoing war between Musk and Alameda County, after Tesla filed a lawsuit against county officials on Saturday for ordering the Fremont plant to close. Musk said the order was "super messed up" and argued that "all other auto companies in the US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out."
The billionaire has launched a full-scale attack against California's lockdown restrictions since Tesla posted its first-quarter earnings on April 29.
Describing the restrictions as "fascist," the tech tycoon has demanded that governments "give people back their goddamn freedom."
Tesla's Fremont plant was closed on March 23 after Alameda County became one of six counties in the San Francisco Bay area that were the first in the US to enforce stay-at-home orders. County officials extended the order until the end of the month last Friday, before Tesla filed a lawsuit against local officials the following day seeking to overturn the order.
Musk also threatened to pull Tesla's manufacturing operations and headquarters from the state and move to a more favorable location.
In the lawsuit, Tesla argues that Alameda County restrictions cannot be stricter than Gov. Gavin Newsom's orders, which refer to federal guidelines that classify vehicle manufacturing as essential businesses and are allowed to continue operations.
"Frankly, this is the final straw," the billionaire tweeted. "Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately."
According to CNBC, Musk could save billions of dollars in taxes over the coming years if he were to follow through on that threat, considering the company would be moving from a state with the highest income tax rate to one with zero income tax - like Nevada or Texas.
Texas and Nevada politicians pounced on the opportunity in the hours after Musk's warning, offering him sanctuary in their states.
That said, the billionaire's threats may be rooted in his latest compensation program. The 2018 package reportedly gives Musk major stock options if the company hits certain operating and market-value goals. The program, although yet to be awarded, has already earned him $708 million in its latest sum. Out of that, he would be paying California $104 million.
Meanwhile, Musk would avoid the 13 percent tax rate altogether if he moved to Texas or Nevada, thereby keeping all of the cash. The package is expected to earn the SpaceX founder a whopping $55 billion over time, with $7 billion going to the state of California. However, if he decided to move to a zero-income-tax state, he wouldn't have to spare a dime from that sum.