Trump meets with top Silicon Valley execs

Posted at 4:40 PM, Dec 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-14 16:40:49-05

NEW YORK - Donald Trump and Silicon Valley want to pivot to a better working relationship.

Top execs from Amazon, Tesla, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and several other large tech companies met with the president-elect in New York on Wednesday after months of clashing.

"In the world, there's nobody like the people in this room," Trump told the executives gathered, according to a pool report. "Anything we can do to help this go along, we'll be there for you."

"You'll call my people, you'll call me. It doesn't make any difference," Trump continued. "We have no formal chain of command around here."

Trump sat at a large boardroom table between Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and VP-elect Mike Pence on one side and investor Peter Thiel and Apple CEO Tim Cook on the other. Trump's three adult children attended the meeting as well, sitting together at one end of the table.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella were each caught briefly on camera walking into the golden elevators in the lobby at Trump Tower.

The top item on the agenda was said to be jobs. However, sources who have worked closely with those in attendance on government policy expected the execs to focus on trade, corporate tax reform and immigration as well.

The tech summit marks a striking shift for both camps.

On the campaign trail, Trump threatened to boycott Apple, went after Amazon for antitrust violations and called out Facebook's founder for his immigration policies. The tech industry returned the favor by slamming Trump as "a disaster for innovation" and rallying for Hillary Clinton.

"Now that we are out of the campaign cycle, we have to move into constructive mode," says Aaron Levie, CEO and cofounder of Box and a vocal Clinton supporter. "This is the next administration."

Invitations to meet with Trump were signed by Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kusher, chief of staff Reince Priebus and Thiel.

Thiel, a Facebook board member and rare Trump supporter in Silicon Valley, has emerged as perhaps the strongest bridge between the tech industry and the incoming administration.

Case in point: Alex Karp, the CEO of Palantir, a secretive data startup cofounded by Thiel, is in attendance at the event. Palantir contracts with federal agencies like the Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hours before the meeting kicked off, Trump added Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to his team of business advisers.

"My administration is going to work together with the private sector to improve the business climate and make it attractive for firms to create new jobs across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland," Trump said in a statement about the appointments.

Some of those in attendance at Wednesday's meeting have already tried to offer Trump symbolic victories.

On Tuesday, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty published a column in USA Today pledging to hire 25,000 workers during Trump's first term in office. Trump could push others in the room Wednesday to make similar announcements.

In one recent interview, Trump said he spoke with Apple CEO Tim Cook about building a large manufacturing facility in the U.S.

"I said to Tim Cook, 'It's my ambition to get Apple to build a great plant, your biggest and your best," Trump said, "even if it's only a foot by a foot bigger than some place in China.'"