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White House Worried Elon Musk Deals Threaten National Security

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 (ONS) meeting in Stavanger, Norway on August 29, 2022.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 (ONS) meeting in Stavanger, Norway on August 29, 2022.
Photo: Carina Johansen / NTB / AFP (Getty Images)

Elon Musk plans to cut Twitter’s workforce by almost 75% after he finalizes the deal to buy the social media company, a move that’s likely to cause chaos among employees, according to a new report from the Washington Post. And that’s to say nothing of Musk’s plan to reinstate the accounts of far-right figures like former president Donald Trump.

The news comes as Bloomberg News reports Musk is on track to actually close the deal and buy Twitter after months of backpedaling and litigation. And to top it all off, President Joe Biden’s administration is said to be looking at the billionaire’s actions with both Starlink and Twitter, concerned that Musk’s friendliness with autocrats could pose a threat to national security, according to yet another report from Bloomberg News.

Musk told investors he was “obviously overpaying” for Twitter during a Tesla earnings call on Wednesday, but believes he can turn the company around after he takes it private. The billionaire had initially offered to buy the company for $ 44 billion, but tried to back out over claims Twitter has too many bots. But that excuse hasn’t been holding up in court after Twitter sued Musk to force him to consummate the deal.

The court-issued deadline for finishing the deal is October 28, which is just a week away, and Bloomberg insists it’s going to happen in time, citing unnamed “people familiar with the matter.” But some tough months are probably directly ahead as Musk believes Twitter’s 7,500 person workforce is too bloated. Musk would like to fire roughly 5,500 people, according to the Washington Post.

Musk has said he plans to double revenue at Twitter in just three years while tripling the number of daily users the social media service receives. How does Musk plan to do that with such a small staff? The answer may be in text messages the billionaire exchanged with tech investor Jason Calacanis, made public last month as part of Twitter’s litigation.

Calacanis inundated Musk with numerous ideas for improving Twitter, including expanding the number of verified users, giving paid users better perks, and paying a “Creator Team” to publish content to Twitter first.

Calacanis also suggested a new requirement that Twitter employees come into the office at least two days a week, something he believed would lead to about 20% of the workforce leaving voluntarily. Musk seemed extremely receptive to all of the ideas Calacanis put forward.

“Want to be a strategic advisor if this works out?” Musk texted Calacanis on April 23.

“100%” Calacanis replied. “Board member, advisor, whatever … you have my sword.”

The White House is also concerned that Musk’s business decisions might pose a risk to US national security, especially since his company SpaceX gets billions of dollars in funding from the US government. And while there are no signs that Musk’s Twitter deal or Starlink contracts are currently under national security review by the US Treasury, that could change quickly.

Why would the Biden administration be concerned that Musk might weaken national security? For starters, Musk’s proximity to the Chinese Communist Party isn’t a great look. Musk recently suggested that Taiwan should cede some democratic control to the Chinese Communist Party, something that won him the praises of officials in Beijing.

But Musk has also parroted Russian talking points about the war in Ukraine, suggesting that Ukraine should allow Vladimir Putin to keep Crimea, an area the Russian autocrat illegally annexed in 2014. More recently, Putin seized four more sections of Ukraine, and Musk has said he no longer wants to fund any Starlink satellite internet service in the war-torn country. Musk had billed Starlink in Ukraine as a kind of charitable donation, but has formally asked the Pentagon to pick up the tabbefore seeming to reverse himself on a whim.

Musk’s business with Twitter also includes foreign investors, something the White House is concerned about given the amount of data the social media company has on Americans. Investors who’ve gone in with Musk on the Twitter deal reportedly include Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.

For his part, Musk may actually welcome a national security review of the Twitter deal, something he clearly wants no part of anymore. After the Bloomberg story broke late Wednesday, one Twitter user commented that it would be “hysterical if the government stopped Elon from over paying for Twitter.” Musk replied with two emjois: The red 100 and crying-laughing.

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