Musk Thanks Staff for Reopening Plant as Trump Joins the Debate

President Donald Trump joined the debate over Elon Musk’s scorched-earth effort to reopenTesla Inc.’s only U.S. car plant hours after the chief executive officer thanked employees who risked being arrested for defying a county order.

“California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW,” Trump wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “It can be done Fast & Safely!”

Musk, 48, said Monday that Tesla was restarting production at its plant in Fremont, California, flouting county officials who ordered the company to stay closed. When asked on Twitter how the day went at the factory, Muskreplied Tuesday: “Great.”

“Just wanted to send you a note of appreciation for working hard to make Tesla successful,” Musk wrote in an email to employees seen by Bloomberg News. “It is so cool seeing the factory come back to life and you are making it happen!!”

To follow through on his tweets claiming Tesla wouldmove its headquarters and future programs to Nevada or Texas, the CEO would have to uproot many of the roughly 20,000 employees the electric-car maker has in the San Francisco Bay area. About half of the company’s headcount is at the factory. Muskwrote Saturday that Tesla would decide whether to keep manufacturing in Fremont based on how Tesla is treated in the future.

Tesla shares rose as much as 3.2% shortly after the open of regular trading. The stock has surged more than 90% this year.

Afterprevailing in a defamation suit and emerging mostly unscathed from acourt fight with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, Musk is waging another legal battle. This time, he’s tangling with health officials over measures to contain a virus that he downplayed startingin January.

Musk has claimed Covid-19 isn’t all that viral a disease, called panic about it“dumb” and theorized fatality rates areoverstated. He’s also promoted the antimalarial drugs President Donald Trumpembraced thathaven’t proved effective and wrongly predicted that new cases would beclose to zero by the end of April.

The standoff with California has come to represent the tense debate playing out in states and counties across America over how fast businesses should be allowed to reopen. The nation’s top infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci, is expected towarn against reopening the economy too soon during a Senate hearing Tuesday, saying that doing so risks new coronavirus outbreaks throughout the U.S.

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