President-elect Donald Trump, who faced fierce opposition from some Silicon Valley leaders during the election campaign, strove to assure the titans of tech on Wednesday that his administration is "here to help you folks do well."
Trump, still savoring his election victory, convened a summit at Trump Tower for nearly a dozen tech leaders, whose industry largely supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Many in the industry are worried that Trump will stifle innovation, curb the hiring of computer-savvy immigrants and infringe on consumers' digital privacy. He immediately tried to allay those fears.
"We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. Anything we can do to help this go on, we will be there for you," Trump said. "You'll call my people, you'll call me. We have no formal chain of command around here."
The CEOs who filled the table in Trump's 25th floor conference room included Apple's Tim Cook, Alphabet's Larry Page, Google's Eric Schmidt, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Tesla's Elon Musk, IBM's Ginni Rometty, Oracle's Safra Catz and Cisco Systems' Chuck Robbins. Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, attended instead of its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who is one of many tech executives who have expressed misgivings about Trump's pledge to deport millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally.
The meeting remained amiable and the group, which agreed to meet quarterly, also had preliminary discussions about immigration and how to stay competitive with China, though no firm commitments were made, according to a person briefed on the meeting but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
No industry was more open in its contempt for Trump during the campaign. In an open letter published in July, more than 140 technology executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists skewered him as a "disaster for innovation."
And Trump's denigration of Mexicans, his pledge to deport millions of immigrants now living in the U.S. illegally and his crude remarks about women were widely viewed as racist, authoritarian and sexist by an industry that prides itself on its tolerance. Trump, in turn, sometimes lashed out at the industry and its leaders, and -despite his reassurances Wednesday -questions remain about how he'll govern.He has lambasted Bezos for the Post's campaign coverage and has suggested that Amazon could face antitrust scrutiny after his election. Trump also rebuked Cook for fighting a government order requiring Apple to unlock an encrypted iPhone used by a shooter in last year's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.
And Trump's repeated negative comments about immigrants raised fears that he might dismantle programs that have enabled tech companies to hire tens of thousands of foreign workers with the skills to write computer programs, design web pages and build mobile apps.The industry is also worried that Trump might try to undermine "net neutrality," a regulation requiring internet service providers to offer equal access to all online services. Trump's harsh characterization of the media as dishonest and unfair has raised other fears that he might try to restrict free speech online. Some in Silicon Valley think the industry's best move would be to keep its distance until Trump changes his tone. Former Google executive Chris Sacca, now a tech investor, argues that industry leaders should have steered clear of the meeting altogether.