WASHINGTON — Asked whether Elon Musk posed a threat to national security, President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the billionaire’s “relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at.”
“I think that Elon Musk’s cooperation and/or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
“Whether or not he is doing anything inappropriate — I’m not suggesting that — I’m suggesting it’s worth being looked at. And that’s all I’ll say,” he continued.
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and the new owner of Twitter, has significant business interests in China.
China is Tesla’s second-largest market and the company produces around half its cars in China-based factories. Musk has been criticized for being overly friendly with China’s ruling Communist Party
Some people have raised concerns that Musk’s ties to China could color the way he runs Twitter, such as hesitating to remove Chinese government propaganda or state-sponsored misinformation campaigns out of concern that it could negatively affect his business relationship with Beijing. In October, he proposed that Taiwan became "a special administrative zone" of China, an idea that was praised in China but not by Taiwan.
Musk’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has also come under scrutiny. Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Co. and the private office of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said they would help Musk finance his purchase of Twitter by rolling over their existing stake worth about $1.89 billion, CNBC reported.
“Together all the way,” Prince Alwaleed tweeted.
That helped prompt Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to call for an investigation into the national security implications of Saudi Arabia’s stake.
The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit policy organization based in Washington, published an analysis last week laying out the case for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to look into Musk's Twitter deal.
"Due to the critical position of Twitter as a platform for political discourse in the U.S., the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a federal interagency committee tasked with reviewing the national security implications of foreign investment in domestic companies, should investigate the Twitter deal on the grounds of national security," analysis stated.
"The risk to national security appears significant, with possible unchecked influence of adversarial governments in play as well as the possibility of providing access to the personal information of millions of Americans to these foreign entities," the Brookings analysis added.
But Musk has important relationships with the U.S. government, too, and those have continued under the Biden administration. Tesla has benefited from tax subsidies given to buyers of its electric vehicles. And SpaceX, the rocket company where Musk is CEO, has contracts worth billions of dollars to deliver astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station, and to build a moon lander.
At times, Musk has jumped into debates about international affairs despite his lack of formal experience in diplomacy. In October, he floated on Twitter a proposal for Ukraine to cede the strategically important Crimea region to Russia as part of a peace deal.
Musk has also had a warm relationship with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who presented Musk with a medal when the billionaire visited Brazil in May. Bolsonaro, who recently lost a bid for re-election, has been an ally of former President Donald Trump.