Donald Trump, Seeking Cash Infusion, Meets With Elon Musk

Donald Trump, Seeking Cash Infusion, Meets With Elon Musk
Donald Trump, Seeking Cash Infusion, Meets With Elon Musk

Donald Trump, who is urgently seeking a cash infusion to aid his presidential campaign, met on Sunday in Palm Beach, Fla., with Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men, and a few wealthy Republican donors, according to three people briefed on the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private discussion.

Mr. Trump and his team are working to find additional major donors to shore up his finances as he heads into an expected general election against President Biden. Mr. Trump has praised Mr. Musk to allies and hopes to have a one-on-one meeting with the billionaire soon, according to a person who has discussed the matter with Mr. Trump.

It’s not yet clear whether Mr. Musk plans to spend any of his fortune on Mr. Trump’s behalf. But his recent social media posts suggest he thinks it’s essential that Mr. Biden be defeated in November — and people who have spoken to Mr. Musk privately confirmed that is indeed his view.

With a net worth of around $200 billion, according to Forbes, Mr. Musk could decide to throw his weight behind Mr. Trump and potentially, almost single-handedly, erase what is expected to be Mr. Biden and his allies’ huge financial advantage over the former president.

On Wednesday, following the publication of this story, Mr. Musk posted on X that he was “not donating money to either candidate for US President.” He did not specify which two candidates he was referring to.

Aides to Mr. Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Musk has long portrayed himself as independent-minded, and like many business leaders he has donated to candidates from both parties over the years. Unlike other U.S. billionaires, he has not spent heavily on a presidential election, and his donations have been fairly evenly split over the years between Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Musk’s businesses, Tesla and SpaceX, have benefited from federal government contracts and subsidies.

A person close to Mr. Musk said his relationship with the government had historically made him wary about identifying too closely with one political party over the other. In 2017, the billionaire famously stepped away from two business advisory councils when Mr. Trump was president over Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

“Climate change is real,” Mr. Musk posted on Twitter in June 2017. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”

The two have had other moments of friction. A few months before the midterm elections, in the summer of 2022, he and the former president traded insults, with Mr. Trump calling him an expletive and Mr. Musk saying it was time for the former president to “sail into the sunset.”

At the same time, however, Mr. Musk was becoming more open about his preference for the Republican Party.

On the eve of the midterms, he told his more than 100 million followers on X — the website that was called Twitter until Mr. Musk bought it in 2022 — that they should vote for a Republican Congress. He has railed against what he describes as the left’s “woke” agenda and has attacked Mr. Biden over the record number of migrants who have entered the United States during his presidency.

Mr. Musk’s comments about immigration have grown increasingly alarmist. He has suggested that the president’s immigration policies threaten the existence of America itself and have pushed American democracy to the brink. He has suggested that Democrats are “ushering in vast numbers of illegals” to cheat in elections. There is no evidence to support his claim of mass voter fraud.

“America will fall if it tries to absorb the world,” Mr. Musk posted on X on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, he posted that the Biden administration’s immigration policies amounted to “treason.”

The person close to Mr. Musk, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that if he does get behind Mr. Trump, his views about immigration will have been a significant motivator.

Mr. Musk has previously raised questions over Mr. Biden’s age and once echoed one of Mr. Trump’s favorite jabs by claiming the president was “still sleeping” after Mr. Biden failed to congratulate one of his companies. Mr. Musk has also held a grudge against the president after the White House did not invite Tesla to an event on electric vehicles in August 2021.

“Let’s not forget the White House giving Tesla the cold shoulder, excluding us from the EV summit,” Mr. Musk, the Tesla chief executive, posted on X in December.

Mr. Musk visited the White House in September to discuss matters around artificial intelligence, according to NBC News, which obtained visitor logs. Mr. Biden and Mr. Musk did not meet during the visit.

After buying Twitter in October 2022, Mr. Musk reinstated Mr. Trump’s account. The former president had been barred from the platform after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a decision that Mr. Musk had previously suggested was a mistake.

Still, it was far from clear that Mr. Musk would support Mr. Trump’s presidential bid. Mr. Musk had indicated before the Republican nominating contest that he was leaning toward backing Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Mr. DeSantis kicked off his formal candidacy in a live-streamed audio discussion with Mr. Musk on X last May, and there was widespread speculation that a donation from Mr. Musk to the super PAC supporting Mr. DeSantis would follow. But it never did.

On Monday, Mr. Musk appeared to criticize the television host Bill Maher, who said in a clip posted to X that he would vote for Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump in most any circumstance.

“Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a very real disease,” Mr. Musk wrote in response on X.

Even if Mr. Musk does not ultimately decide to donate to a pro-Trump super PAC or spend money in other ways to help Mr. Trump, his own megaphone is substantial. Mr. Musk has 175 million followers on X and has an ability like few others in America to shape news coverage.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Jonas P. Jones

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