President-elect Donald Trump met with some of the most prominent executives from the tech industry today at Trump Tower, with investor Peter Thiel and Vice President-elect Mike Pence at his side. Trump opened the meeting with CEOs from Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and others by thanking Thiel for his support.
“I want to add that I am here to help you folks do well. And you’re doing well right now and I’m very honored 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,” Trump said, perhaps in reference to the fact that he received little support from Silicon Valley during his campaign.
“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,” Trump said.
Trump cited free trade as one topic he wanted to discuss with the group, but other topics on the agenda include cybersecurity and job creation.
“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,” Trump said.
Attendees included Eric Schmidt and Larry Page of Google, Tim Cook of Apple, Satya Nadella and Brad Smith of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos of Amazon (who expressed his excitement that Trump’s administration could be “the innovations administration“), Safra Catz of Oracle, Chuck Robbins of Cisco and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. Thiel’s business partner, Palantir CEO Alex Karp, attended as well.
“The meeting today was very informative and productive, and President-elect Trump and his team were extremely engaged,” a Cisco spokesperson said. “The group discussed critical matters related to job creation and innovation in the United States. Cisco looks forward to continuing to work closely with the incoming Administration and our industry peers on important policy issues going forward.”
Trump’s children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka also attended, along with Ivanka’s husband and Trump advisor Jared Kushner. The continued presence of the Trump children in transition meetings is controversial, as the president-elect has said he would allow his children to run his businesses in an effort to reduce conflicts of interest in the White House. The Office of Government Ethics said today that leaving his children in charge of his business interests would not be enough to eliminate the conflicts.
Thiel has been instrumental in shaping Trump’s approach to technology, helping assemble a list of candidates for technical roles in the upcoming administration and reportedly bringing David Sacks and other long-time associates to the transition team. During his speech at the Republican National Convention, Thiel talked about spreading the prosperity of Silicon Valley to other regions across the country and cited space travel as one of America’s great technological achievements.
“Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East,” Thiel said.
However, one of the biggest proponents of travel to Mars, Elon Musk, has also been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics. Musk donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and frequently denounced Trump, saying that the former reality television star “doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.”
But since the election, Musk appears to have warmed up to Trump. He was a late addition to the invite list for today’s meeting. The transition team also announced this morning that Musk will join Trump’s strategic and policy forum, a group of business leaders that will serve as an advisory committee to the president-elect.
Although Trump often uses Twitter to communicate directly with his supporters and tweetstorm about his frustrations, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey did not receive an invitation to today’s summit. A Politico source says the snub is due to the fact that Twitter blocked the use of a custom emoji for the hashtag #CrookedHillary during the presidential debates.
The emojis, which Twitter calls hashflags, were attached to several debate-related hashtags and are also frequently developed for sports-related hashtags. Twitter also created a custom hashflag for Rodrigo Duterte, who was elected president of the Philippines this summer and has spent his time in office running a bloody campaign to exterminate drug dealers and users.
Trump’s director of digital advertising Gary Coby wrote in a Medium post last month that Dorsey personally intervened to prevent the emoji from going live during the second presidential debate, and Politico’s source claims that this led to Twitter being excluded from the meeting.
Twitter declined to comment on the report, and a transition team source denied the allegation. “They weren’t invited because they aren’t big enough,” the transition official told Reuters.
Trump suggested during the meeting that companies with a smaller market cap didn’t merit an invite. “I will say, Peter [Thiel] was sort of saying, ‘No, that company’s too small,’ and these are monster companies,” Trump explained.
Taylor Hatmaker contributed reporting to this story.