What happened when Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with Trump
Guest Blog Post: Charles Morris is the Senior Editor of Charged, the magazine of electric vehicles, for which he writes a daily blog and regular print articles. He's also written five books including Tesla Motors: How Elon Musk and Company Made Electric Cars Cool, and Sparked the Next Tech Revolution.
Our President-elect, as promised, is unpredictable. Shortly after choosing various oil industry insiders and climate science deniers for his cabinet, he not only invited Fearless Fossil Fuel Foe Elon Musk to a meeting of tech industry leaders, but also announced that Musk will be on the president’s Strategic and Policy Team, a group of businesspeople that “will be called upon to meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his economic agenda.”
Image: Tesla's Elon Musk and President-elect Donad Trump (Image: Smart Stock News)
This week, Trump also convened a tech industry summit which included 15 top executives from such companies as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google’s parent, Alphabet. Some felt that the leaders should have boycotted the event to show their opposition to Trumpist values. Others argued that they should go and bluntly state their commitment to innovation, diversity and other progressive ideals.
Above: Elon Musk at Trump's tech meeting (Image: Electrek*)
It’s possible that some of them did so - we don’t know what they said, except for few details of the 90-minute meeting that were released to the press. The New York Times* reported that topics discussed included vocational education (and the need for more of it), the pros and cons of trade with China, and immigration. The President-elect also asked the execs to find a way to apply data analysis technology to rooting out government waste.
Above: Wall Street Journal tech columnist Christopher Mims tweeted, "holy crap this seating chart at the Trump / tech meeting" (Twitter: @mims via Wall Street Journal)
Business Insider reported, "Whether the summit will result in anything substantive isn't yet clear. But we can say that the companies Trump apparently wants to help are already massive... the 11 firms represented at Wednesday's meeting have a combined market cap of $3.1 trillion. Of note: The two smallest firms at the meeting, by far, were Tesla Motors and Palantir. Perhaps not coincidentally, both companies have ties to Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist and Trump tech adviser who helped orchestrate the meeting. Thiel is the cofounder and chairman of Palantir, and formerly founded PayPal with Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla."
Above: Market caps of tech companies at Trump meeting (Image: Business Insider)
USA Today did report some insider feedback. Amazon's Jeff Bezos said in a statement, "I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech." Wilbur Ross, Trump's choice for Commerce Secretary attended and said it was "a very good, constructive meeting" in which both sides "got to know each other better." Fortunately, the first few minutes of the meeting were filmed. This particular video includes Musk's initial comments...
Above: Opening of Trump's meeting with tech leaders (Youtube: Fox 10 Phoenix)
Musk's former Paypal business partner and longtime friend, Peter Thiel, appeared to receive Trump's most effusive praise. We don't know much about Musk’s overall contribution to the meeting except for his intro: “Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, building rockets, and cars, and solar stuff in the US - actually really excited about expanding our manufacturing footprint in the US.” But we do know Musk received special attention. Of all the invitees, only Musk (and Apple CEO Tim Cook) were invited to a separate, private meeting with Trump afterwards.
Recode reports that Musk participated in a number of discussions during the group meeting, and later brought up the issue of climate change in his private meeting with Cook and the President-elect. Motley Fool's Daniel Sparks concludes: "Tesla alone has created about 30,000 jobs, most of which are in the U.S. and are manufacturing related... With Trump clearly willing to give Musk his ear, and considering Musk's important role in U.S. manufacturing job creation, Musk's companies are off to a good start with the President-elect."