Trump and a bunch of Silicon Valley CEOs sat at a big table and pretended to like each other
Silicon Valley was very loud during the election cycle about the dangers that a President Donald Trump could pose to the United States. But now that the billionaire businessman has been elected, many prominent tech leaders are softening their tone, meeting with the president-elect, and some are even joining his team of advisers.
On Wednesday Trump met with a group of executives that included the CEOs of IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Palantir, Oracle, and Google. Facebook COO and Hillary Clinton confidante Sheryl Sandberg also attended, as did Apple CEO Tim Cook, who during the campaign season held a fundraiser for Clinton. Trump’s children, who run the Trump Organization, were also at the table.
— alexei oreskovic (@lexnfx) December 14, 2016
The meeting centered on job creation, trade, and the economy; cameras in the room and limited time didn’t allow for a deep dive into tech industry concerns on issues like user privacy or immigration.
The thinking in Silicon Valley is that on policy, Trump is malleable. One Republican operative who advises a tech company with a CEO in the meeting (the operative was not authorized to speak on the record) told VICE News that “every CEO here is feeling like there’s an opportunity to inform the president-elect’s views on the issues at stake.”
“[Trump] doesn’t come from a strong tech background, and obviously it plays a strong role in the U.S. economy,” the adviser said. “The hope and expectation is that a little bit of education around what are the special ingredients for a strong tech sector in the U.S. — immigration, tax reform, infrastructure — these are all gonna be areas [Silicon Valley leaders] are going to speak to the administration about.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who runs Trump’s favorite social media platform, was not present at today’s meeting, nor was a surrogate. Politico reported it was because Twitter rejected a Trump campaign proposal to “allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary.” A Twitter representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Today's tech summit included productive discussions about job creation & economic growth. We're on track to make America first again pic.twitter.com/tFU3ObcB0i
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) December 14, 2016
Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick are set to join Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, a collection of business community leaders who will advise and meet regularly with Trump.
Though Musk is close with Trump tech liaison Peter Thiel — Musk and Thiel both made their initial fortunes from launching PayPal — his selection as a Trump adviser comes as something of a surprise. Trump is set to stack his cabinet with fossil fuel industry executives, including ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whereas Tesla is arguably the world’s best-known green technology company and Musk has disparaged Trump in the past. Speaking on CNBC shortly before Election Day, he said Trump “doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.”
In a statement emailed to VICE News, Kalanick said he looks forward to “engaging with our incoming president and this group on issues that affect our riders, drivers, and the 450+ cities where we operate.” A number of companies with executives present in the meeting either declined to comment (Facebook) or did not respond to requests for comment (Google, Apple, Tesla).
And here is an awkward handshake between Trump and Thiel. pic.twitter.com/QmvlSREnZc
— Jay Yarow (@jyarow) December 14, 2016
Though Trump has previously lashed out at executives who spoke against him during the election cycle, like the heads of CNN and NBC, he struck a more conciliatory tone in the tech meeting Wednesday, perhaps for the cameras.
“There’s nobody like you in the world. In the world,” Trump told the room, according to a press pool report. “There’s nobody like the people in this room, and anything we can do to help this go on and really be there for you, then you’ll call my people, you’ll call me, it doesn’t make any difference.”