NYTIMES – The meeting between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the nation’s tech elite was hyped as something out of “The Apprentice”: The new boss tells his minions to shape up. It turned out to be a charm offensive, a kind of “Dancing With the Silicon Valley Stars.”
“This is a truly amazing group of people,” the president-elect said on Wednesday in a 25th-floor conference room at Trump Tower in Manhattan. The gathering included Jeff Bezos of Amazon; Elon Musk of Tesla; Timothy D. Cook of Apple; Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook; Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Alphabet, Google’s parent company; and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, among others. “I’m here to help you folks do well,” Mr. Trump said.
He kept going in that vein. “There’s nobody like you in the world,” he enthused. “In the world! There’s nobody like the people in this room.” Anything that the government “can do to help this go along,” he made clear, “we’re going to be there for you.”
And that was just in the first few minutes. The candidate who warned during the presidential campaign that Amazon was going to have antitrust problems, that Apple needed to build its iPhones in the United States instead of China, was nowhere to be seen.
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Even after the press was ushered out, the meeting continued its genial way. Among the topics discussed, according to several corporate executives and a transition official briefed on the meeting, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, were vocational education and the need for more of it, the promise and peril of trade with China and immigration (Mr. Trump wants “smart and talented people here”). The president-elect also asked the executives to see if they could not apply data analysis technology to detect and help get rid of government waste.
There are plans for quarterly meetings of a smaller group of tech executives, to be organized by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, said one of the executives briefed on the meeting. They will focus mainly on immigration and education issues.
The meeting lasted more than 90 minutes, longer than expected. Mr. Trump was seated next to Peter Thiel, the tech investor who is a member of the president-elect’s transition team. In another sign of Mr. Trump mixing family, business and government hats, three of his adult children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — also attended.
“I won’t tell you the hundreds of calls we’ve had asking to come to this meeting,” Mr. Trump told his guests. Everyone laughed.
To get to the 25th-floor conference room, the tech leaders entered the golden elevators of Trump Tower the same way anyone would — by punching a button. This gave the news media, cordoned off a few feet away, time to shout questions. None of the executives took the bait.
Neither did they talk on the way out, although by that time the building was being closed for Trump Tower’s holiday party. Safra Catz, the co-chief of Oracle who attended the meeting, gave a thumbs up.
Mr. Bezos later issued a statement that said he found the meeting “very productive.”
“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,” he said.
The technology world had been in turmoil as the meeting drew near. Some argued the chief executives should boycott the event to show their disdain for Mr. Trump’s values. Others maintained they should go and forthrightly make their values clear. And still others thought they should attend and make their accommodations with the new reality.
Trump is adding credibility and clout to his economic plan with the support of the major tech industries. He’s also dispelling a lot of the concerns that he would not be able to sway big business to his side.
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