The heads of Silicon Valley's largest companies are gathering at the White House today for the inaugural meeting of the new American Technology Council. The council is part of the new Office of American Innovation run by President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The council, which includes the CEOs of some of the country's biggest tech businesses, is slated to discuss with the president ways to modernize the federal government’s technology infrastructure while also improving the way it handles cybersecurity issues.
Among those attending the meeting are Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, and Safra Catz, co-chief executive of Oracle. The summit will kick off the White House's Technology Week, during which time it will pay special attention to technology issues.
The meeting marks the second time Trump will have met with some of the country's most influential technology CEOs. Several of the executives attending today's event also attended a similar meeting Trump held in December in advance of his inauguration.
But despite the surface similarities between the two sessions, the events surrounding them have changed considerably in the interim. Silicon Valley has never exactly been a hotbed of Trump support. Apple CEO Tim Cook threw a fundraiser for Trump's former opponent Hillary Clinton last year. Of the executives slated to attend today's meeting, only venture capitalist Peter Thiel has been a vocal Trump supporter.
But much of the goodwill the industry may have been willing to extend the president at the beginning of his term in office has likely already been used up, as the White House has clashed with tech companies on a variety of issues, including immigration, encryption, and climate change.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who once served as an economic advisor to the president, has already announced that he would step down following Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Executives Plan To Push Back
For his part, Cook has said he plans to use the meeting as an opportunity to push back against the president's stance on the so-called Muslim immigration ban and to lobby for stronger data encryption. Although Cook is scheduled to attend today's meeting, he is not a member of the council.
Cybersecurity in general may prove a sensitive subject at today's meeting. The FBI has reported that Russian intelligence agencies have attempted to hack into the electoral systems of multiple state governments and will likely attempt to do so again in the future. But so far, the White House has indicated that it does not consider the situation to be urgent.
The choice of Kushner to run the Office of American Innovation may also raise some eyebrows among the attendees. Kushner, the son of a real estate magnate, has no experience in either technology or government, and is also shouldering the responsibility for running the president's Middle East peace initiative.