Donald Trump gathered Silicon Valley executives together for a roundtable meeting, in an attempt to smooth over frictions after a contentious presidential campaign.
The biggest names in attendance were Apple’s Tim Cook – who publicly supported Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton – and Tesla founder Elon Musk, who would meet Trump separately after the roundtable.
Looking around the room Trump called the group gathered ‘amazing’ and then boasted about the stock market ‘bounce’ that followed his election, which helped many of the businesses represented in the room.
‘So right now everybody in this room has to like me – at least a little bit,’ Trump told the crowd.
‘But we’re going to try and have that bounce continue,’ Trump pledged.
It was Peter Thiel, Trump’s one prominent Silicon Valley backer, that brought the tech titans and the president-elect face-to-face.
Safra Catz, the CEO of Oracle, had been the first to arrive at Trump Tower, after issuing a statement setting out what she, and likely the others, were likely to say.
‘If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation, and negotiate better trade deals, the U.S. technology community will be stronger and more competitive than ever,’ Catz said in a statement.
Soon after Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos arrived. He’s also the owner of the Washington Post, one of the many media outlets that Trump took issue with during his presidential campaign.
Other attendees included Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Alphabet’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Palantier’s Alex Karp, Intel’s Brian Krzanich, Cisco’s Chuck Robbins, IBM’s Ginni Rometty and Saya Nadella of Microsoft.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates paid the president-elect a visit yesterday at Trump Tower.
Reporters were briefly led into the room, in which Trump hosted the tech titans, along with his three adult kids, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr.
Trump kicked off the meeting by complimenting Thiel.
‘He got about just the biggest applause at the Republican National Convention,’ Trump said.
‘He’s ahead of the curve. And I want to thank you. You’re a very special guy,’ Trump added, grabbing the hand of Thiel, who was sitting on his left-hand side.
The president-elect then addressed the full group.
‘So I want to add that I’m here to help you folks do well,’ Trump said. ‘You’re doing well right now and I’m very honored by the bounce.’
Trump was referring to the post-election bounce on the stock market.
‘They’re all talking about the bounce,’ he repeated.
Trump said the most important thing was ‘we want you to keep going with the incredible innovation.’
‘There’s nobody like you in the world, in the world. There’s nobody like the people in this room,’ the president-elect told the titans, which also included Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Alphabet’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.
Trump pledged to be there for Silicon Valley and make it easier for American companies to trade.
‘And you’ll call my people, you’ll call me. It doesn’t make any difference,’ Trump continued. ‘We have no formal chain of command over here.’
After several minutes, reporters were ushered out of the room.
Attendees, like Sandberg, will likely bring up their own priorities like strong encryption and liability protections from content shared by their users.
The meeting was billed as an introductory session, said four sources briefed on the talks, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting.
The CEOs of Airbnb and Uber were invited but are not attending. Uber’s Travis Kalanick will instead be traveling in India all week, according to a person familiar with his plans.
Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his surprise victory last month alarmed many companies that feared he might follow through on his pledges.
He has said that many tech companies are overvalued by investors.
‘You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company and they’re selling for so much money,’ he told Reuters in an interview in May.
Those concerns have not been assuaged in recent weeks as Trump has threatened to upset trade relationships with China, a key market for U.S. tech companies, and appoint officials who favor expanded surveillance programs.
‘For some of the companies, there was some hesitation about whether to attend’ because of sharp political and personal differences with Trump, one tech industry source said.
Nearly 600 employees of technology companies pledged in an open letter on Tuesday to refuse to help Trump’s administration build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.
Silicon Valley enjoyed a warm rapport with President Barack Obama and heavily supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.
Schmidt was photographed on election night at Clinton headquarters wearing a staff badge, and Musk said in interviews before the election that Trump’s character reflected poorly on the United States.
Despite those tensions, Trump named Musk to a business advisory council that will give private-sector input to Trump after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Uber’s Kalanick was also appointed to the council.
From the employees of the 10 largest Fortune 500 tech companies, Trump raised just $179,400 from 982 campaign donors who contributed more than $200.
Clinton raised $4.4 million from the employees of the same companies, with more than 20,400 donations, a Reuters review of contribution data found.
Trump publicly bashed the industry during the campaign. He urged his supporters to boycott Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an iPhone associated with last year’s San Bernardino, California, shootings, threatened antitrust action against Amazon and demanded that tech companies build their products in the United States.
Trump has also been an opponent of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content.
Two advisers to his Federal Communications Commission transition team are opponents of the rules, as are the two Republicans on the FCC.
Last week, the two Republicans on the panel urged a quick reversal of many Obama policies and one, Commissioner Ajit Pai, said he believed that net neutrality’s ‘days are numbered.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Nikki Schwab; Reuters