- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A powwow with Silicon Valley titans Wednesday was the latest maneuver by President-elect Donald Trump to heal wounds inflicted during the rough-and-tumble campaign on players he likely will need on his side once he takes office.

The meeting at Trump Tower with high-tech business leaders who backed Hillary Clinton and actively opposed the Republican candidate followed Mr. Trump’s pattern of turning antagonists into allies. He also has repaired relationships with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“I’m 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,” Mr. Trump said at the start of the meeting, referring to the stock market surge since the election. Wall Street’s record highs in recent weeks have sent the values of the companies represented at the conference table skyrocketing.

“So, right now, everybody in this room has to like me — at least a little bit,” Mr. Trump said. “But we’re going to try and have that bounce continue. And perhaps even more importantly, we want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There’s nobody like you in the world — in the world. There’s nobody like the people in this room. And anything we can do to help this go along, and we’re going to be there for you.”

The banter was a 180-degree turn from some of the heated rhetoric on the campaign trail.

The “tech roundtable” included Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, a newspaper Mr. Trump regularly tangled with during the campaign, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose company Mr. Trump denounced for not helping the FBI unlock an iPhone used in a terrorist attack on an office Christmas party last year in San Bernardino, California.

Mr. Trump also pressed Apple to make more iPhones in the U.S., and he worried executives across Silicon Valley with his talk about cracking down on visas for foreign workers, upon which many high-tech firms rely.

“I see it as a smart move to bury the hatchet as early as possible. It is a very necessary move,” said Republican Party political strategist Ford O’Connell. “You’ve got to bring them to the table because if you are going to boost economic growth and put people back to work, the tech industry is one of the places where you’re going to do it.”

On Tuesday, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates compared the president-elect to John F. Kennedy. Mr. Gates, who had spoken recently with Mr. Trump by phone, said the incoming president asked about fostering innovation.

“In the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that,” Mr. Gates told CNBC, “I think whether it’s education or stopping epidemics … there can be a very upbeat message that [Mr. Trump’s] administration is going to organize things, get rid of regulatory barriers and have American leadership through innovation.”

On Wednesday, the other tech titans also seemed optimistic.

Before reporters were ushered out of the room, Mr. Bezos declared that he was “super-excited about the possibilities for innovation with this administration.”

Many were hesitant about attending, but billionaire investor and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, an early Trump supporter who has become the president-elect’s liaison to Silicon Valley, managed to coax a high-tech who’s who into the room.

Seated around the table were Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Oracle CEO Safra A. Catz, Intel CEO Brian M. Krzanich, Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, Google founder and CEO Larry Page, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Alex Karp, co-founder and CEO of the software firm Palantir Technologies.

Both sides had something to gain from making amends.

Mr. Trump wants a flourishing high-tech sector and the jobs that would create.

Silicon Valley wants the president’s ear on issues where there already is friction, including immigration, trade and net neutrality — the Obama administration’s “rules of the road” for the internet that bar service providers from prioritizing web content.

Mr. Trump also has been smoothing over relationships with the Republican Party establishment.

He has made amends with Mr. Ryan, who nettled him during the campaign by resisting an endorsement as the party’s nominee and then refusing to stump with him in the final days of the race.

“I’ve come to appreciate him,” Mr. Trump said when accompanied by Mr. Ryan at a thank-you rally in his home state of Wisconsin. “He’s like a fine wine. Every day, I appreciate his genius more and more.”

But Mr. Trump also added a warning: “If he ever goes against me, I’m not going to say that.”

Mr. Trump also forged a friendly bond with Mr. Romney, one of his most outspoken detractors in the Republican Party establishment during the presidential race.

Although Mr. Trump did not select Mr. Romney for secretary of state, a post for which the former Massachusetts governor was a top contender, the public interview process assured that Mr. Romney would not be left out.

Further cementing their relationship, Mr. Trump tapped Mr. Romney’s niece, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, to chair the Republican National Committee.

Ms. McDaniel, a GOP star in her own right, is credited with helping engineer Mr. Trump’s historic win in the state.

“Things do change,” Mr. O’Connell said. “People who were enemies become friends or people you need to work with.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide