How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary

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How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Donald Trump (right) on Tuesday escalated his feud with Elon Musk in a Truth Social post belittling the billionaire.Andrew Kelly and Gaelen Morse/Reuters
  • Elon Musk and former President Donald Trump are going at it online.
  • Musk said Trump should "sail away into the sunset." Trump called Musk a "bullshit artist."
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Former President Donald Trump and Elon Musk, the world's richest person, are in the midst of a fiery online feud.

Most recently, Musk said Trump shouldn't run for president again in 2024. In response, the former president bashed what he called Musk's "electric cars that don't drive long enough, driverless cars that crash, or rocketships to nowhere."

But their history goes back farther than this latest spat.

November 2016: Musk says Trump is 'not the right guy' for the job

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Just before the 2016 presidential election, Musk told CNBC he didn't think Trump should be president.

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"I feel a bit stronger that he is not the right guy. He doesn't seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States," Musk said.

The billionaire added that Hillary Clinton's economic and environmental policies were the "right ones."

December 2016: Musk appointed to Trump's advisory councils

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Donald Trump on Tuesday escalated his feud with Elon Musk in a series of Truth Social posts belittling the billionaire.Evan Vucci/AP Photo

After he won the presidency, Trump appointed Musk to two economic advisory councils, along with other business leaders like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Musk got flack for working with the controversial president, but defended his choice by saying he was using the position to lobby for better environmental and immigration policies.

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June 2017: Musk cut ties with the White House in protest of Trump's environmental policies

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and former President Donald TrumpAP Photo/Alex Brandon

On June 1, 2017, after Trump announced the US would pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Musk resigned from his roles on presidential advisory boards.

"Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world," Musk said in a tweet announcing his departure.

Musk's goal for Tesla is to curb dependence on fossil fuels through electric vehicles, solar power, and stationary energy storage.

January 2020: 'One of our great geniuses'

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a "Save America" rally in Anchorage, Alaska, on July 9, 2022.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

During a January 2020 interview with CNBC, Trump praised Musk's accomplishments and intelligence.

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"You have to give him credit," the former president said, referring to Tesla becoming more valuable than Ford and General Motors. "He's also doing the rockets. He likes rockets. And he's doing good at rockets too, by the way."

Trump went on to call Musk "one of our great geniuses" and likened him to Thomas Edison.

May 2020: Trump backs up Musk in feud with California covid rules

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Elon Musk meets Donald Trump at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. May 30, 2020.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

As the pandemic gripped the US in early 2020, Musk clashed with California public-health officials who forced Tesla to temporarily shut down its factory there. Trump voiced his support for Musk.

"California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW," Trump tweeted in May 2020. "It can be done Fast & Safely!"

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"Thank you!," Musk replied.

May 2022: Musk said he would reinstate Trump's Twitter account

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW

In May, before Musk pulled out of his deal to buy Twitter, he said he would unban Trump as the social network's new owner.

Musk called the ban a "morally bad decision" and "foolish to the extreme" in an interview with the Financial Times. Twitter kicked Trump off of its platform following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

The Tesla billionaire has called himself a "free speech absolutist," and one of his key goals for taking Twitter private was to loosen content moderation.

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July 2022: Trump calls Musk a 'bullshit artist'

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a "Save America" in Anchorage, Alaska on July 9, 2022Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, Trump took aim at Musk, claiming the businessman voted for him but later denied it.

"You know [Musk] said the other day 'Oh, I've never voted for a Republican,'" Trump said during a Saturday rally in Anchorage, Alaska. "I said 'I didn't know that.' He told me he voted for me. So he's another bullshit artist."

On Monday, Musk tweeted that Trump's claim was "not true."

July 2022: Musk says Trump shouldn't run again

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How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Elon Musk.Alexi Rosenfeld / Contributor / getty

On Monday, Musk stopped short of attacking Trump personally, but said he shouldn't run for president again.

"I don't hate the man, but it's time for Trump to hang up his hat & sail into the sunset. Dems should also call off the attack – don't make it so that Trump's only way to survive is to regain the Presidency," he tweeted.

He continued: "Do we really want a bull in a china shop situation every single day!? Also, I think the legal maximum age for start of Presidential term should be 69." Trump is 76 years old.

July 2022: Trump lashes out

How Elon Musk went from being a trusted Donald Trump advisor to a bitter adversary
Former President Donald Trump gives the keynote address at the Faith and Freedom Coalition during their annual conference on June 17, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee.Seth Herald/Getty Images

Trump went on the offensive on Tuesday, posting a lengthy attack on Musk on Truth Social, the social media company he founded.

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"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," Trump said in a post that criticized two of Musk's ventures, Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX.

"Lmaooo," Musk responded on Twitter.

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