President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that any foreign involvement in Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition – including by Saudi Arabia – is ‘worthy of being looked at’.
He made the comments in a press conference on the midterm elections after Democrats performed better than expected.
The president was asked if he considered the billionaire and his deal a national security threat – as Democrat Senator Chris Murphy warned last month.
‘I think that Elon Musk’s cooperation and or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at,’ he said, after a long pause – choosing his words very deliberately.
‘Whether or not he’s doing anything inappropriate.
‘I’m not suggesting that.
‘I’m suggesting that it’s worth looking being looked at.
‘That’s all I’ll say.’
Asked how the deal should be looked at Biden laughed, and replied: ‘There’s a lot of ways.’
Biden’s own son, Hunter, is well known for his deals with businesses in China, Turkey and a host of other governments around the world. Republicans want to investigate those arrangements.
Musk’s Twitter $44 billion Twitter buy was partially funded by Saudi Arabia and its prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, who became the second-largest investor in the now-private social media company.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that any foreign involvement in Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition – including by Saudi Arabia – is ‘worthy of being looked at’
Musk, pictured on November 4, bought Twitter two weeks ago – the deal closed on October 27. Biden said that it was potentially worthy of investigation, given the foreign financing
Musk is yet to respond to Biden’s remarks.
Tesla’s share price fell on Wednesday, closing down 7.17 percent.
Last month, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said Musk’s deal with the Saudis was worth investigating.
‘Today I am requesting the Committee on Foreign Investment — which reviews acquisitions of U.S. businesses by foreign buyers — to conduct an investigation into the national security implications of Saudi Arabia’s purchase of Twitter,’ he said.
Most foreigners seeking to take even non-controlling stakes in U.S. companies must seek approval from CFIUS, a powerful Treasury-led committee that reviews transactions for national security concerns and has the power to block them.
Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company and the private office of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said they will continue their ownership of Twitter shares – valued at $1.89 billion.
‘The deal is in line with the long-term investment strategy which Kingdom Holding Company is known for,’ the statement said.
Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding is 16.9 percent owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
‘We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in repressing political speech and impacting U.S. politics, are now the second-largest owner of a major social media platform,’ Murphy wrote on Twitter.
‘There is a clear national security issue at stake and CFIUS should do a review.’
Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal helped finance Musk’s $44B purchase
The tweet signals another flashpoint in U.S.-Saudi relations
Sen. Chris Murphy is seeking a probe of a Saudi billionaire’s stake in Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase
On Wednesday afternoon, Musk acknowledged that his fraught takeover of the company two weeks ago – which has already seen him fire many of the executives including the CEO, chief financial officer and senior lawyers, plus 3,700 others – was a work in progress.
‘Complaint hotline operator online! Please mention your complaints below,’ he tweeted on Wednesday morning.
He added that afternoon: ‘Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.’
On Tuesday, he tweeted: ‘Twitter is the worst! But also the best.’
Biden and Musk have a long history of fraught relations.
Most recently, Musk urged his 114 million Twitter followers to vote against Biden’s party in the midterms, telling ‘independent-minded’ voters to pick Republicans.
He said that ‘shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties’ so independent voters should vote ‘for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic’.
In a follow-up post, he added that ‘independent voters are the ones who actually decide who’s in charge’ because hardcore voters on both sides never vote for the other side.
Musk previously said he used to be a Democrat, but would vote Republican in the future.
In May, he declared he would vote Republican because the once-kind Democrat party had become ‘the party of division and hate’.
A month earlier, he had posted a cartoon-like image attacking the Democrats for becoming more left-wing – leaving him, views unchanged, on the right of the political spectrum.
The prolific tweeter posted in May: ‘In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party.
‘But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican.
‘Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold.’
The left got lefter: In April, Musk shared an image showing how the political landscape had changed leaving him, and his unchanged views, more centrist then right as left-wing politics changed
Musk branded the Democrats a party of ‘division and hate’ in a May tweet
Musk was angered early on in the Biden presidency, when he was not included in a White House gathering of the nation’s biggest makers of electric vehicles.
In August 2021, Musk was very pointedly not invited to the showcase.
‘(They) didn’t mention Tesla once and praised GM and Ford for leading the EV revolution. Does that sound maybe a little biased?’ Musk said during a panel discussion.
‘Not the friendliest administration, seems to be controlled by unions.’
Asked in August whether the White House did not invite Musk because workers at Tesla are not unionized, the then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: ‘I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.’
In January this year, Biden again overlooked Musk and instead met with GM’s CEO, Mary Barra.
The White House has repeatedly praised the Detroit automaker’s electric vehicle efforts, even though it is selling far fewer EVs than Tesla.
Biden tweeted a video of himself talking to Barra, to which Musk replied ‘Starts with a T/Ends with an A/ESL in the middle.’
He then compared Biden to a ‘damp sock puppet’.
In February, Biden at last acknowledged Musk’s work in the field.
‘From iconic companies like GM and Ford building out new electric vehicle production to Tesla, our nation’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer, to innovative younger companies,’ Biden said, adding other start-ups and saying manufacturing is coming ‘back to America after decades.’
Musk in August 2021 was angered by not being invited to an electric vehicle event at the White House
Adding on to federal accusations, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Tesla of false advertisement of its ‘Autopilot’ feature
The Justice Department last month announced it was launching a criminal investigation into Tesla after the company’s self-driving feature led to more than a dozen crashes – some of which were fatal.
Musk said in 2016 that the vehicle’s ‘autopilot’ system was ‘probably better’ than a human driver, despite recent tests indicating cars failed to detect mannequin children multiple times.
A probe into more than 830,000 of the company’s vehicles and its complementary advertising leads investigators wondering whether Tesla misled consumers, investors and regulators over unsupported claims regarding the feature.
Should the department find any evidence to support its claims, criminal charges against the company or individual executives could be filed.
Former US attorney Barbara McQuade, who has prosecuted automotive companies in the past, told Reuters that investigators would need to find internal communications within the company indicating misleading statements.
The investigation follows a 2021 fatal crash in which a Tesla Model S, operating on ‘Autopilot,’ led its driver into a parked vehicle killing a 22-year-old college student.
The investigation started after 16 Tesla vehicles crashed while drivers used its ‘Autopilot’ feature
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened its investigation after 16 crashes involving Tesla vehicles.
NHTSA officials will continue to review vehicles before regulators will have justification for requesting a recall.
Adding on to federal accusations, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Tesla of false advertisement of its ‘Autopilot’ feature.
The automotive company has since filed paperwork with the DMV to seek a hearing on those allegations, indicating it is willing to defend against them.
In response, the California-based DMV stated it is still in its discovery stage for the proceeding.
Tesla has advertised its vehicle’s self-driving software through the years, including on various videos throughout its website.
An upgraded version has also been announced, which would allow customers to use the software to travel ‘to your work, your friend’s house, to the grocery store without you touching the wheel.’
‘The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons,’ one video exclaims.
‘He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.’