Elon Musk And Donald Trump's Tumultuous Relationship Explained

Former United States president Donald Trump and billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk are two of the world's most controversial and polarizing figures, and since they both have enormous power, their paths have intertwined from time to time, not always on the best terms. The two have disagreed on policy measures, but have also seemingly been on the exact same page on other issues.

Their paths crossed back in 2016 when Trump was campaigning for president, and Musk held a lot of criticism for the then-Republican candidate. Musk was not a fan of Trump's character and demeanor, and also believed that Hillary Clinton, Trump's opponent in 2016, had better policy measures when it came to environmental issues, per Insider. He even donated to her campaign, according to Forbes. This makes sense, since one of Elon Musk's most well-known businesses, Tesla, is focused on creating electrical vehicles with renewable and sustainable energy (via Tesla).

Early days

When Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, he appointed Elon Musk to sit on the board of two advisory councils, which Musk accepted to push the president towards more environmentally friendly positions, according to Insider. However, this stint didn't last very long, and Musk quit in July 2017 after the then-president pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement (via Insider). Adopted by 196 nations in 2015, the treaty requires that the countries do their best to cap carbon emissions, with the goal of making sure global warming stays below two degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit), per the United Nations.

Trump critiqued the agreement for being too costly for the United States and leading to job loss. He also said it would leave the U.S. power grid at risk of blackouts and other energy shortages, according to Insider. In a November 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, Musk emphasized climate change: "Climate change is the biggest threat that humanity faces this century, except for AI," he said, per another article in Rolling Stone.

Seeing eye to eye

In January 2020, Donald Trump went on to claim that Elon Musk was "one of our great geniuses," and lauded him for his accomplishments with Tesla and SpaceX (via CNBC). What really cemented their relationship, however, was their views on how to tackle Covid-19, which ravaged the country that same year. When the pandemic began to spread across the United States, Musk had a dubious approach to how the nation should cope with the virus. In early March 2020, Musk tweeted, "The coronavirus panic is dumb" (via Forbes). He went on to tweet how he thought the pandemic would be over by April 2020, which did not occur.

On May 9, 2020, Alameda County in California ordered Musk to shut down his Tesla factory, which Musk furiously defied, despite the mandate (per Forbes). Trump defended Musk, tweeting, "California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW" (via Insider).

Whose side is Elon Musk on?

Despite this, Elon Musk claimed that he voted for former vice president Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, according to The Street. After Biden won the presidency, Musk has become increasingly disappointed with his administration. When President Biden was first inaugurated, Musk expressed his excitement about being able to work with the administration on issues like climate change, which, as stated previously, Musk is extremely passionate about (via Insider).

However, since then, Biden apparently left Tesla — and subsequently Musk — much out of this discussion. The president has complimented other automakers' efforts, like General Motors and Ford, for curbing the industry from being dependent on fossil fuels, despite the fact that Tesla makes the majority of the country's electric vehicles, according to Insider. This has led Musk to lash out at Biden, even declaring, "Biden is a damp sock puppet in human form," according to Insider. Much of this has to do with Biden's support for unions, which Musk has notoriously been hostile to (via NPR and Insider).

Elon Musk's switch

Elon Musk then announced that he would only vote for Republicans in the midterms. He claimed, "The Democratic party is overly controlled by the unions and the trial lawyers, particularly the class-action lawyers" (via CNBC). Musk also tweeted, "In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party. But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican. Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold..."

Musk also claimed that a big reason for his switch was his idea of free speech. The tech billionaire claimed that he bought Twitter to enshrine free speech, and he also planned to restore former president Donald Trump's account, according to The Street. Trump had been banned in January 2021 after Twitter deemed that the president incited the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, which was followed by virtually every other major social media company doing the same (via Glamour).

Friends to enemies

Elon Musk and Donald Trump squabbled some more when Trump claimed that Musk had confided in him that he secretly voted for him, before saying Musk was a "bulls*** artist" (via Insider). In July 2022, Musk then argued for Trump not to run for president again, expressing his issues with Trump's character and age, according to Insider.

Trump then posted on Truth Social, his own social media company, "When Elon Musk came to the White House asking me for help on all of his many subsidized projects, whether it's electric cars that don't drive long enough, driverless cars that crash, or rocketships to nowhere, without which subsidies he'd be worthless, and telling me how he was a big Trump fan and Republican, I could have said, 'drop to your knees and beg,' and he would have done it" (via Insider). For his part, Elon Musk has said he would endorse Ron DeSantis, the famous Republican governor of Florida, for the presidency in 2024, according to The Washington Post.