Trump backs Tesla on reopening after Musk defies order

Washington (AFP) –


President Donald Trump sided with Tesla on Tuesday, calling for California authorities to allow the reopening of the electric carmaker's assembly plant after company chief Elon Musk said he was defying local authorities.

Trump's comments came a day after Musk said he was restarting production at the plant in Fremont, California and after a series of angry tirades against the state's lockdown policies to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Musk said Monday the company was resuming production, defying authorities and escalating a feud over the Pacific state's pandemic shutdown.

"I will be on the line with everyone else," Musk tweeted. "If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."

Musk's move comes amid rising disputes over the pace of easing the lockdowns imposed by states to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Over the weekend, Musk threatened to move Tesla's headquarters and factory out of California as a result of the standoff.

Following Musk's statement, Alameda County's office of emergency services said Tesla was only allowed to maintain "minimum basic operations" until officials approve a plan.

"We are addressing using the same phased approach used for other businesses which have violated the (shutdown) order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures," the county statement said.

The US administration is pushing a reopening of the world's largest economy, battered by weeks of lockdown, even as the daily death toll has generally been rising by 1,000 to 2,500 in recent weeks.

Musk has been raging on Twitter for days about his unsuccessful efforts to restart production, claiming the ban violates "our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!"

In late April, he delivered an expletive-laden diatribe during an earnings update call in which he dubbed coronavirus restrictions "fascist.