Trump Calls for California to Let Tesla Factory Open -- 3rd Update
By Rebecca Ballhaus and Tim Higgins
President Trump has backed Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon
Musk's decision to resume production of cars at its California
plant, siding with the electric-vehicle maker over the local
government in a high-profile standoff as parts of the state
Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter Tuesday, writing: "California
should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be
done Fast & Safely!"
A day earlier, Mr. Musk tweeted that Tesla would restart
production in violation of coronavirus lockdown rules set by
Alameda County, where the Silicon Valley auto maker has its lone
U.S. car factory. The facility manufactures the company's
bestselling Model 3 compact car and is where more than 10,000
people are employed.
"I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is
arrested, I ask that it only be me," the Tesla chief executive said
on Twitter. The company stopped production at the Fremont, Calif.,
factory on March 23.
The county health department said Monday that it had notified
the company that it could only maintain "minimum basic operations"
until its plan to reopen received approval.
Late Tuesday, the county said it had reviewed Tesla's plan and
was seeking some additional steps beyond those laid out by the car
maker. If the company puts those measures in place, the county
said, Tesla can gradually increase its activity at the plant "in
preparation for possible reopening as soon as next week." Local
police, the county said, would verify that Tesla is adhering to the
steps to assure worker health.
Alameda County had 75 Covid-19-linked fatalities, according to
California data updated Tuesday, out of 2,847 for the entire state.
The California figures show the county has been one of the state's
hardest-hit regions and in the one with the most deaths from the
disease in the immediate Bay Area.
Mr. Trump in recent weeks has begun escalating pressure on state
and local governments around the country to start reopening after
months of sheltering in place due to the pandemic. The president
has repeatedly indicated he fears the economic toll of shutting
down will be greater than the harm caused by virus, which has
infected more than 1.3 million and killed more than 80,000 in the
The push to reopen Tesla also comes as Anthony Fauci, the U.S.
government's leading infectious diseases doctor, warned that the
country faces "needless suffering and death" if the nation reopens
too early during the pandemic.
Tesla on Saturday filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to
overturn the county's order that idled U.S. production of its Model
3 car and other vehicles.
Mr. Musk and the president both frequently turn to Twitter to
argue their cases in public. Mr. Trump has frequently praised Mr.
Musk and has paid attention to his Twitter account. Earlier this
year, Mr. Trump hailed Mr. Musk as one of the world's "great
geniuses," equating him to Thomas Edison.
They haven't always gotten along. In 2017, Mr. Musk stepped down
from high-profile White House advisory groups shortly after the
president said the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate
accord. Mr. Musk said he made a mission of Tesla to popularize
electric vehicles as part of an effort to curb greenhouse gas
More recently, the CEO and president have found common ground in
other areas, such as promoting U.S.-based manufacturing. Mr. Trump
was the first to suggest Tesla would build a new factory in the
U.S., something Mr. Musk later confirmed he was aiming to do
somewhere in the middle of America.
In recent days, as Mr. Musk has intensified his fight with local
government authorities, the CEO has used language similar to that
raised in protests elsewhere in the nation against lockdown rules,
including saying that such orders violate civil liberties. Mr. Musk
on Twitter has said people should be given back their freedom, a
message Mr. Trump also has shared on the social-media platform.
Mr. Musk has argued that the infection rate of Covid-19 is low
and the damage being done to the economy by remaining shutdown is
greater than the virus.
Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Tim
Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 13, 2020 01:18 ET (05:18 GMT)
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