President-elect Trump met with the tech elite of Silicon Valley on Wednesday, pledging his support for their continued innovation. Among this group were industry leaders from some of the most influential US-based tech companies, including Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google parent), Cisco, IBM, Oracle, Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla. Mike Pence, Trump’s family, and other members of his soon-to-be cabinet were also in attendance.
Donald struck a charming tone in his opening statements. “This is truly an amazing group of people,” continuing to compliment the entire group as all Americans have come to recognize from the boisterous billionaire. “There’s nobody like you in the world,” he proclaimed. “There’s nobody like the people in this room and anything we can do to help this go along, we'll be there for you and you'll call my people, you'll call me, it doesn't make any difference, we have no formal chain of command around here.” These were just some of the comments the President-elect made in his opening statements, during the first few minutes that the meeting was open to the media. You can watch Trump briefly placate the tech leaders who publicly opposed his presidency here. (via Reuters)
During the 90 minute meeting in Trump Tower in New York City, the group discussed many of the topics that Trump promised to act on during his campaign. According to a release from Trump’s transition team, discussions included tax cuts, job creation, dealing with China, repatriating foreign assets, education, infrastructure, and rewriting laws that prevent American companies from doing business abroad. The release stated that the group might meet quarterly to continue progress.
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, who Trump blasted during his campaign for presidency, said that he agreed with many of the key points brought up during the meeting. “I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech—agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing—everywhere.” It looks like attitudes on both sides of the fence have completely changed since the election. Just a few months ago, Trump was kicking Bezos’ ass at a rally in Texas:
"I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence, and I gotta tell you, we have a different country than we used to have. He wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That's not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They're going to have such problems." Some may call this political flip-flopping, but I see the change as not only a great publicity stunt, but a step in a positive direction of unifying the United States.
Nearly the entirety of Silicon Valley opposed Trump during his campaign. Throughout his presidential run, the President-elect spoke about enforcing policies which would hurt the tech industry, including restricting free trade and tougher antitrust laws. It’s a breath of fresh air to see the Trump administration working alongside some of the most influential business leaders in the US, vowing to give them the support that they need for continued success.
The tech industry flourished under President Barack Obama, assisted by free trade, almost zero enforcement of antitrust policies, and the support of net neutrality. It makes sense that tech leaders were wincing at the idea of Donald Trump becoming the new Commander in Chief – he openly opposed many of the policies and regulations currently in place since day one. Briefly commenting on trade, during his opening statement Trump said, “We will do fair trade deals, and make it a lot easier for you to trade across borders, because there are a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems.” He also publicly asked for advice in the meeting, adding “If you have any ideas on that, that would be great.”
A Cisco spokeswoman gave a comment at the conclusion of the event, and said that the meeting “was very informative and productive, and President-elect Trump and his team were extremely engaged.” Most other companies in attendance declined to comment. Following the meeting, Elon Musk of Tesla and Tim Cook of Apple stayed at the location to meet with Trump privately. Musk said he was “really excited about expanding our [Tesla’s] manufacturing footprint in the US.”
Many were surprised to see that Twitter was left off of the invitation list, considering that tweeting is Donald’s favorite form of communication. A transition official for the Trump administration told Reuters that they were too small of a company to attend the tech meeting: “They weren’t invited because they aren’t big enough,” the official said. Twitter holds a market capital of $13.85 billion, while the smallest company in attendance of the event was Tesla, with a market capitalization of $31.92 billion.
The only real issue I have with the meeting is the reminder of the constant nepotism that comes when dealing with an “old school” businessman. Out of the 25 people in attendance, four of them share the Trump surname. This doesn’t look good in the public eye, especially when citizens are worried about the President-elect’s potential conflicts of interest in the business world. Trump’s daughter Ivanka is objectively gorgeous, and a fantastic public speaker. Perhaps Donald should allow her to attend future events, but tell his two android-appearing sons to take a hike. Americans don’t want to feel as though they’re living under monarchy rule.
Although we don’t know the exact details of what was discussed during the mostly closed-door meeting, the outcome of the event seems to be pretty positive. If Donald Trump can sit in a room full of people who openly opposed his presidency and change their opinions of him, perhaps there is hope for us yet. Whether Americans like it or not, Mr. Trump is going to be inaugurated as our President, and we’re stuck with him for at least four years. If business leaders in the US tech industry can accept this fact, perhaps other citizens should settle down and give the guy a chance.