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Musk and Weeks and Trump
Elon Musk (left), the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, listens to President Donald Trump during a White House meeting. Corning CEO Wendell Weeks sits between Musk and Trump. (White House via YouTube)

If you can join them, you can try beating them, too. Today SpaceX and Tesla signed on to the legal fight against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, even though the companies’ billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, is a member of Trump’s business advisory council.

SpaceX and Tesla are among 31 additional tech companies joining a friend-of-the-court brief that was filed by nearly 100 companies overnight.

The brief supports a challenge to Trump’s executive order on immigration – a challenge that’s being led by Washington state. The challengers won an initial victory on Friday when a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to force a suspension of the president’s immigration ban.

That meant visitors from other countries could be processed under the provisions that were in place before Trump signed the order on Jan. 27 – even if they came from seven predominantly Muslim countries that were on a no-admittance list.

Attorneys filed a flurry of legal documents on Monday in preparation for the next round of legal proceedings. This afternoon, the Justice Department submitted its own legal brief defending the executive order and arguing that states have no standing to challenge visa restrictions.

In their friend-of-the-court brief, also known as an amicus curiae filing, the tech companies argued that the immigration ban was inflicting “significant harm on American business, innovation and growth.”

The original lawsuit contained similar claims in the same vein from two Seattle-area companies, Amazon and Expedia. The friend-of-the-court brief adds tech titans such as Apple, Google and Microsoft as well as smaller companies like Planet Labs, General Assembly and Bellevue-based Bungie.

Musk is now in the unusual position of being on the outside as well as the inside when it comes to Trump’s immigration policy. Last Friday, he helped sparked a discussion of the policy during a White House meeting that brought business leaders together with Trump and his aides at the White House.

Afterward, he tweeted that “there will be progress on this matter” but said the immigration issue “should be addressed on all fronts: judicial, legislative and executive.”

In a follow-up tweetstorm, he argued that “people should push to have as many moderates advising the president as possible.” But some of his fans felt he was getting too cozy with the president. “Some of my fresh grad friends are disavowing you due to President Trump,” one follower told Musk.

Today’s action signals that Musk is willing to challenge Trump in court even though he’s advising him in the White House. Will Trump and his followers be cool with that? You might want to brace yourselves for the next tweetstorm.

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