Trump offers olive branch to tech leaders

President-elect Donald Trump tries to make a fresh start with tech leaders, assuring them he planned to continue helping them succeed.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Marguerite Reardon
Alfred Ng
4 min read
Press Pool
Watch this: Tech titans turn out for Trump

For President-elect Donald Trump, it's kiss-and-make-up time.

Trump met with more than a dozen executives from the biggest tech companies in the US -- a roundtable fraught with potential for awkwardness given Trump's repeated attacks on tech and the philosophical disagreements he has with some of the executives.

The president-elect instead pledged to do "anything we can do" to help continue the industry's success.

"This is a truly amazing group of people," Trump said, according to a press pool transcript. "I'm here to help you folks do well. And you're doing well right now, and I'm very honored by the (stock market) bounce. So right now everybody in this room has to like me -- at least a little bit -- but we're going to try and have that bounce continue."

The eagerly anticipated meeting was Trump's attempt to mend fences after a volatile election season in which he went after high-profile companies like Apple. Trump had hoped to reset the relationship with an industry that had close ties to the Obama administration and openly supported Hillary Clinton in the campaign. Earlier Wednesday, Trump said that Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick would serve as advisers.

Trump kicked off the roundtable by complimenting the accomplishments of his guests and hinting that any bad feelings may be behind them.

He continued by offering an open line of communication between executives and his administration. "You call my people, you call me," he said. "It doesn't make any difference. We have no formal chain of command around here."

A who's who

The meeting, which was held at Trump Tower in New York, included a guest list of who's who in Silicon Valley. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt from Google parent company Alphabet, Amazon head Jeff Bezos, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich were there along with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who coordinated the meeting. Trump's children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were also in the meeting.

The CEOs of Oracle, IBM, Cisco, and Palantir Technologies, a company co-founded by Thiel, were also there.

Press and curious onlookers crowded Trump Tower hoping to catch a glimpse of a high-profile figure like Kanye West or Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, both of whom appeared on Tuesday. Tourists left disappointed when they were told that tech executives, and not rap stars, would be showing up today.

The more recognizable faces, like Cook and Bezos, were able to sneak past the press and make the meeting without being seen.

Bezos left feeling the meeting was "very productive," the Amazon founder said in a statement. "I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars."

Notably missing from the meeting was CEO and co-founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey, whose absence was a surprise given Trump's penchant for using the social media platform to bypass the traditional press. Trump's transition team told Reuters the omission was because Twitter was too small.

All about jobs

Several tech execs declined comment on the meeting. Reince Priebus, who will become Trump's White House chief of staff, said in a tweet that the summit included "productive discussions about job creation & economic growth."

Creating jobs was on the agenda for the meeting. The consumer tech sector is a significant part of the US economy, generating $3.5 trillion in economic output and employing more than 15 million people, according to the Consumer Technology Association. Of that, the companies in attendance represent more than 1.3 million of those jobs with a total market cap of $2.9 trillion, according to CTA. There is a belief they could be doing more.

Trump has a complicated history of jabs at the tech leaders. During the campaign he accused Google of burying negative news about Clinton, which was disproved with a simple search.

He's also accused Google -- along with Facebook and Twitter -- of hiding news about the FBI's investigation of Clinton, which was also disproved.

In his most vocal tech feud during the campaign, Trump called for a boycott of Apple products after the company refused to provide a security backdoor to the FBI to access the locked iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist. He also said on the campaign trail that he'd force Apple to build iPhones in the US, which would send iPhone prices soaring.

Troublesome issues

There is a long list of other issues in which the tech sector and Trump disagree, including his stance on limiting H-1B visas and plans to restrict trade.

Trump tried to allay fears that his trade policies would hurt tech companies. He told the executives that he wanted to work with them to ensure that there were fair trade deals that would "make it a lot easier for you to trade across borders."

First published December 14, 4:12 p.m. PT.
Update, December 15 at 7:43 a.m. PT: Adds comments from Jeff Bezos.