Trump wants Elon Musk to speak at Republican convention

Former President Donald Trump and his allies on the Republican National Committee want to convince Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to speak at the GOP convention in July, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Republican leaders believe that giving Musk a speaking slot at the convention could lead to some of his fans boosting what has been the party’s historically lagging support among young adult voters on Election Day, said a source with knowledge of that belief.

Trump is expected to be confirmed at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, event as the Republican presidential nominee, setting up a rematch of his 2020 contest against President Joe Biden in the election this November.

Musk’s potential speaker role was disclosed after he reportedly met with Trump and a group of wealthy Republican donors last weekend in Palm Beach, Florida. It is not clear if Trump or his allies have raised the idea with Musk.

That sitdown came days before the former president’s landslide victories in the Super Tuesday primaries, which led his last major challenger, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, to drop out of the nomination contest.

The people who spoke to CNBC for this story were granted anonymity to describe private conversations.

If Musk, who also owns the social media site X, does appear at the convention, it would be an implicit, and possibly explicit, endorsement of Trump’s candidacy.

Peter Thiel, who is Musk’s long-time financial backer and fellow PayPal co-founder, served a similar purpose when he spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, which first nominated Trump for president.

One of the sources familiar with the matter noted that interest from RNC leadership to have Musk speak at the convention had already been discussed with Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chair who resigned at the committee’s Houston meeting on Friday.

That source said that new RNC chair Michael Whatley likely will be in favor of inviting Musk to speak, as will the new RNC co-chair Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law.

Representatives for Trump and the RNC did not reply to requests for comment.

Musk did not reply to a request for comment.

It remains to be seen if the RNC will invite Musk, or if he wants to attend the convention.

Musk, who has a reported net worth of nearly $200 billion, this week said that he does not plan to donate money to the campaigns of either Trump or Biden.

But a person familiar with last weekend’s Florida meeting said that some of Trump’s advisors are hoping that Musk will start supporting the Republican candidate.

Musk has not publicly ruled out donating money to a pro-Trump political action committee, or a nonprofit organization supporting the former president’s policies.

Musk previously voiced support for the Republican presidential candidacy of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suspended his campaign in January after dismal primary results against Trump.

Musk also hosted an event last year on Twitter Spaces for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is seeking the White House as an independent candidate.

Musk did not endorse Trump in the Republican’s two prior campaigns, in 2016 and 2020.

And the two have clashed in the past.

In June 2017, Musk abandoned a Trump White House advisory council, citing the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate accord.

In July 2022, Trump blasted the mega-billionaire for saying he had never voted for a Republican before casting a ballot earlier that year for a GOP candidate in Texas for a special House election.

“He said the other day, ‘Oh, I’ve never voted for a Republican,’ ” Trump said at that rally. “He told me he voted for me, so he’s another bulls— artist.”

Musk within days tweeted,  “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.”

While Musk has continued to characterize himself as “moderate,” his public political commentary has been moving rightward for years.

And his social and political commentary in posts on X have become more bombastic since late 2022, when he led a leveraged buyout of the social media company, then known as Twitter.

Earlier in 2022, Musk said that he would vote for Republicans over Democrats in the congressional midterm elections that year.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, as voters around the United States were casting ballots in presidential primaries, Musk baselessly accused Biden of “treason,” while bashing his handling of immigration in the United States.

When he took control of X, Musk said that he would reinstate Trump’s account on the platform, which Twitter’s prior leadership had banned for life in the wake of the deadly riot by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

That riot disrupted for hours a joint session of Congress that was meeting to confirm the Electoral College victory of Biden.

Trump, who subsequently launched his own social media company, Truth Social, previously had said that he would not return to X even if Musk reversed the ban.

Trump made an exception to that vow last summer, when he posted his jailhouse mug shot taken after he was booked on Georgia state criminal charges related to his attempt to undo his loss to Biden in that state’s presidential election in 2020.

That post is linked Trump’s campaign website, which allows people to donate to his reelection effort and a to political action committee that pays for his mounting legal bills

Thiel, a former Facebook board member, told The Atlantic last fall that he does not plan to financially back any Republican candidates, including Trump.

Thiel also said in that interview that Trump’s presidential administration, which spanned January 2017 to January 2021, was “crazier” and “more dangerous than I thought.”

“They couldn’t get the most basic pieces of the government to work,” Thiel told the media outlet. “So that was — I think that part was maybe worse than even my low expectations.”

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