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What just happened? Elon Musk is once again attracting the interest of the US government. On this occasion, President Joe Biden has said that the Twitter owner's relationships with other countries are "worthy of being looked at."
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Biden was asked if Musk posed a national security threat and if the help he received from Saudi Arabia to buy Twitter should be investigated—Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his Kingdom Holding Company represent Twitter's second-largest investor after Musk with a $1.89 billion stake in the company.
"I think that Elon musk's cooperation and/or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at," Biden said. "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."
The president's statement comes only a few weeks after reports that his administration was discussing whether some of Musk's business ventures should be subject to national security reviews, with the Saudi link set for extra scrutiny.
When asked about the reports of a national security review last month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said they were "not true."
Other politicians are concerned about Musk's dealings with the Saudis. Senators Ron Wyden and Chris Murphy have called for a "thorough vetting" of the Twitter deal. "Given the Saudi regime's history of jailing critics, planting a spy at Twitter, and brutally murdering a Washington Post journalist, the Saudi regime must be blocked from accessing Twitter account information, direct messages and other data that could be used to identify political opponents or to suppress criticism of the royal family," Wyden said.
This is highly likely to be the outcome in the end – just a question of how many die before then— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
Musk has been more involved in global politics over the last 12 months, and it's often brought a lot of anger his way. The CEO's SpaceX company has supplied over 25,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine since Russia invaded, with costs estimated to exceed $100 million by the end of the year. But much of the goodwill he earned was lost when he tweeted a controversial peace plan poll that drew the ire of many, including Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.
I have been writing my weekly newsletter on geopolitics for 24 yrs.— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) October 11, 2022
I write honestly without fear or favor and this week's update was no different.
Musk was also forced to deny he had a conversation with Vladimir Putin, who he once offered to fight in single combat, about the prospect of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The world's richest man, whose Shanghai Gigafactory produces between 30% - 50% of Tesla's EVs, was also criticized for his suggested solution to the Taiwan/China crisis through a "reasonably palatable" arrangement. It was praised by Beijing but slammed by the island country.