President-elect Trump met with some of the tech industry’s most prominent executives at his transition headquarters in Trump Tower yesterday, alongside Vice President-elect Mike Pence and notable tech investor and Trump supporter Peter Thiel.
Among the executives in the room were Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Apple’s Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Tesla’s Elon Musk. Also present were Trump advisors Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, along with Trump’s children Eric, Ivanka and Donald Jr, who will be running his businesses while he is President.
Notable by its absence was anyone from Twitter, despite Trump being well known for using the service. A spokesperson from the transition team told Reuters that Twitter were not invited because “they aren’t big enough”, but political news site Politico claims that the social network was snubbed over its rejection of an advertising deal during the Presidential campaign.
The Trump campaign reportedly wanted to attach an emoji to the hashtag ‘#CrookedHillary’ during the second Presidential debate, as part of its $5m (£3.98) advertising deal with the social network. However, CEO Jack Dorsey reportedly intervened to prevent the emoji being deployed, concerned that users wouldn’t be able to distinguish the paid-for addition from emojis that Twitter itself had added to certain hashtags.
Gary Coby, director of digital advertising and fundraising for Trump’s Presidential campaign, wrote about the clash between the campaign and the tech firm last month, saying “We told them [Twitter] it was BS and what they were doing with a public platform was incredibly reckless and dangerous. We voiced that is was clearly a political move and telling us otherwise was just insulting.”
Trump began the meeting by thanking Thiel for his support, who reportedly donated over $1.3m to Trump’s campaign.
“I want to add that I am here to help you folks do well,” said Trump. “And you’re doing well right now and I’m very honoured by the bounce. They’re all talking about the bounce. So right now everybody in this room has to like me, at least a little bit.”
‘The bounce’ refers to a 5.3 per cent growth in the stock market since 8 November, the date of the election – though it’s worth noting that the tech industry is behind the curve, at 4.7 per cent. Some of the companies in the room have in fact seen stock prices dip over the same period, with Amazon down 2.5 per cent and Facebook 3.2 per cent.
“We’re going to try to have that bounce continue. Perhaps even more importantly, we want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There’s nobody like you in the world. There’s nobody like the people in this room and anything we can do to help this go along, we’re going to be there for you. You’ll call my people, you’ll call me, it doesn’t make any difference. We have no formal chain of command around here,” said President-elect Trump, who will soon be in command of the largest military force on the planet.
Among the topics discussed at the meeting were cybersecurity, job creation and free trade, with Trump promising that he would make it easier for the companies present to carry out international trade and deals.
“We’re gonna do fair trade deals and make it a lot easier for you to trade across borders because of a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems and if you have any ideas on that that would be, that would be great because there are a lot of border restrictions and a lot of border problems, you probably have less of a problem than some companies, some companies have … you have some problems.”
Elon Musk joins Strategic Forum
Off the back of the meeting, it was announced that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick will join the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Also joining is Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, bringing the advisory board to 16 people.
The forum, chaired by Stephen Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of private equity firm Blackstone, will ‘meet with the President frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the President implements his economic agenda’.
Musk’s inclusion may be surprising, given that he was an outspoken critic of Trump in the run-up to the election.
“I feel a bit stronger that he is not the right guy,” Musk told CNBC last month. “He doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.”
‘Conflicts of interests’
Trump has drawn criticism for the continued presence of his adult children at transition meetings, with questions continuing to arise about conflicts of interests between his duties and responsibilities as President-elect and his business empire, which will be run by his children during his term.
“You would think that if he is planning to come out with a solution of turning everything over to his children, that he would separate his children immediately from the transition,” Larry Noble, general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told The Hill. “But he’s not even doing that, so it’s hard to see how this fits into any plan he may have for trying to avoid conflicts of interests.”
The Office of Government Ethics said yesterday that leaving his children in charge of his business interests would not be enough to eliminate the conflicts that existed.