Elon Musk Says He Won’t Donate to Trump — but Does That Settle It?

Estimated read time 3 min read
  • Elon Musk says he’s not going to donate to any presidential candidate.
  • But Musk’s past actions suggest he’s not always a reliable narrator.
  • Or maybe Musk really thinks he’s not going to donate to Donald Trump, but could change his mind.

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News that Elon Musk met with former President Donald Trump on Sunday raised the obvious question: Is Trump, who needs money, going to get some from one of the world’s richest men?

Absolutely not, said Musk on Wednesday:

“Just to be super clear, I am not donating money to either candidate for US President,” he wrote on X.

That settles that. Right?


Except that Musk is … not a reliable narrator.

There’s a long list of examples, but let’s pick a few:

In 2018, Musk said he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private but didn’t.

In 2022, Musk said he was acquiring Twitter shares as a “passive” investor — and then bought the whole company.

In 2022, Musk said he wanted to buy Twitter in part to rid it of bots, then tried to get out of the deal to buy Twitter, claiming it had too many bots.

In 2022, Musk sold billions of dollars in Tesla stock to finance his Twitter deal, then announced that he had “No further TSLA sales planned,” and then sold billions more in Tesla stock throughout the year.

So. Maybe Musk really isn’t going to donate to Trump.

Or maybe Musk really thinks he’s not going to donate to Trump but could change his mind. Or maybe Musk thinks he’s crafted a clever tweet about “not donating money to either candidate for US President,” and what he really means is he’s “not donating RIGHT NOW.” Or maybe he’s going to be extra clever and donate the money to a Trump-related political action committee and then claim that donating to a Trump PAC is different from donating to Trump.

We’re all just guessing here.

But while we are here: On Tuesday night, after news of the Trump-Musk meeting broke, Teddy Schleifer, who covers the intersection of Silicon Valley and politics for Puck, said a Musk donation to Trump was unlikely. Musk, Schleifer argued, seems to enjoy giving political candidates the idea that he might donate to them and then not actually doing that.

To hammer the point home, Schleifer noted a 2023 piece he’d written where then-candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s team was convinced that Musk was going to donate to his long-shot campaign. That donation never materialized.

Schleifer’s skepticism looks extra smart now — that is, if Musk truly isn’t going to back Trump.

That said: Just because Musk didn’t want to throw money at a candidate who was never going to be president doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t give money to a famously transactional guy who is ahead in most presidential polls.

So this may be worth revisiting in the future.