In a new interview with CNBC during the World Economic Forum in Davos, the president marvelled at Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, and said he was “one of our great geniuses”.
“I spoke to him very recently, and he’s also doing the rockets,” Trump said. “He likes rockets.
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“And he does good at rockets, too, by the way.”
Trump went on to praise SpaceX’s work to design rockets that can land themselves, allowing them to be reused in future missions, referring to them as “engines”.
“I never saw where the engines come down with no wings, no anything, and they’re landing,” Mr Trump continued. “I said I’ve never seen that before.”
The president was asked for his views on Musk after an interviewer noted that his other company, Tesla, was now bigger than traditional car companies GM and Ford.
After discussing SpaceX, Trump moved on to praise Musk as “one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius”.
“You know, we have to protect Thomas Edison and we have to protect all of these people that came up with originally the light bulb and the wheel and all of these things,” he continued. ”And he’s one of our very smart people and we want to cherish those people.”
Musk has praised Thomas Edison in the past. He was a rival of the scientist Nikola Tesla, for whom Mr Musk’s electric car company was named.
Trump also said that Musk was “building a very big plant in the United States”, which he had to do “because we help him, so he has to help us”.
Musk has been largely quiet about his feelings about Trump in recent times, though the two have disagreed in the past. In 2017, he stopped advising the president in the wake of his decision to pull out of the Paris agreement on the climate.
“Am departing presidential councils,” he tweeted at the time. “Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”