That Trump tech summit comes with some awkward baggage

Do you think all the tech leaders and Trump will just forget the things they've said about each other?

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.
Alfred Ng
4 min read

This could get awkward.

Donald Trump's tech summit at Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday will host the heavyweights, with executives from Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and others reportedly set to make an appearance.

The summit is already on a shaky foundation, given Trump's complicated history of jabs at the tech leaders. The morning after Trump was elected, shares in all those companies dropped. (Stocks have since bounced back in December.)

These are all companies Trump has trash-talked in the past -- and some have returned the favor. Tech leaders who spoke out against the former reality TV star had issues with his stance on immigration and net neutrality. Maybe those topics will come up for discussion at Trump Tower.

None of the tech companies listed below replied to requests for comment about the Trump tech summit.

Here's a look at the rocky relationship between the tech leaders and Trump before he became the president-elect.


The social media giant's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, is expected to appear at Trump Tower on Wednesday. Do you think she's forgotten this tweet Trump sent out about her in 2013, where he asked her to stop focusing so much on her ego?

In a Facebook post after Election Day, Sandberg noted that, following Hillary Clinton's loss, "we fell short."

She openly backed Clinton during the campaign, signing off along with a list of tech leaders, including Netflix's Reed Hastings and Alphabet's Eric Schmidt, in a massive endorsement of the former secretary of state.


While Schmidt's name was on the list of tech leaders who opposed Trump, that of Google co-founder Larry Page was not. Google came into Trump's crosshairs during the election campaign, with the candidate accusing the search engine goliath 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.

Despite the jabs at Google, Schmidt said the search engine company would remain neutral during the election, even if its leaders hadn't been.

Page was reported to have been in secret talks about Trump with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook at the World Forum in March, with "much unhappiness about his emergence."


Trump's beef with Apple may have been his most vocal tech feud during the campaign. He criticized the Cupertino, California, company at the height of the encryption debate between Apple and the FBI, calling for an iPhone boycott until Apple provided a security backdoor for the agency to access the San Bernardino terrorist's locked phone.

It didn't work, but that didn't stop Trump from continuing to comment on Apple. In a meeting with The New York Times, Trump told reporters he had a phone call with Cook and Bill Gates, in which he offered the Apple CEO incentives to start building iPhones in US factories. By the way, if that actually happened, your iPhones would likely skyrocket in price.

Cook also hosted a fundraiser for Clinton, as well as one for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican.

While Cook was reported among the tech leaders secretly unhappy about Trump's rise at the World Forum, publicly he's had to calm his employees post-Election Day, urging Apple staffers to move forward together following the divisive election.

Maybe Trump will talk about his ideas for the iPhone 8. After all, he's taken credit for Apple's move to larger screens in 2014.


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos isn't one to just sit back and take Trump's jabs. A source familiar with the summit said Bezos plans to be there Wednesday, despite their history of barbed comments.

Trump has threatened Bezos and Amazon for the CEO's influence over The Washington Post, which the tech leader owns. The president-elect has lashed out at the Post, calling its coverage unfair and biased. He's also accused Bezos of only owning the Post for Amazon's tax benefit -- which, like other claims in this crazy year, has also been disproved.

"If I become president, oh, do they have problems. They're going to have such problems," Trump said about Amazon.

Of the tech executives rumored to be attending the summit, Bezos is the only one who directly hit back. He started the #sendDonaldtoSpace hashtag and offered Trump a prime seat on a Blue Origin rocket. So, this meeting should be interesting.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is also expected to attend the summit. Consider how awkward it might be if he bumps into Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who criticized Silicon Valley companies for having too many execs from Asia. Nadella, who became CEO of Microsoft in 2014, was born in India.

Trump and Nadella haven't personally crossed paths, with the president-elect preferring to comment on Bill Gates. Last December, he asked for Gates to "close that internet up."

The two met on Tuesday, with Gates saying that like President John F. Kennedy, Trump has an opportunity to lead through innovation.


At least Ginni Rometty is heading into this meeting with some optimism. Rometty penned an open letter to Trump after he won the election, telling the president-elect IBM would be open to helping him create "new collar" jobs, built on cybersecurity and using data to fight government waste.

This positive attitude came just a week after Trump slammed IBM as one of the companies moving employees out of the US. Rometty doubled down on her letter in an op-ed for USA Today a day ahead of the summit. IBM declined to comment specifically about the summit.

It's still unclear what will come of this meeting. After winning the White House, Trump has been meeting with several of his former political enemies. Maybe the tech leaders will take a cringe-worthy Mitt Romney-esque photo together.