Six months after top tech CEOs met with President Trump for the very first time, they came back for round two. as well as that will time the tensions leading up to the meeting are even greater.
The CEOs of Apple (, , Tech30)Microsoft (, , Tech30)Amazon ( as well as Google’s parent company , Tech30)Alphabet ( joined more than a dozen different tech leaders for the first meeting of the American Technology Council on Monday. , Tech30)
The group met with Trump as well as different members of his administration throughout the day. The main agenda, at least on paper: talk through ways to modernize the government’s technology infrastructure.
“Our goal is usually to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology that will will deliver dramatically better services to the citizens [as well as] stronger protection through cyberattacks,” Trump said in opening remarks.
Trump introduced the tech executives as “special people” who employ “hundreds of thousands” of American workers as well as are “on the absolute cutting edge of innovation.”
The president was flanked by Apple CEO Tim Cook as well as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella called for continuing an “enlightened immigration policy” to boost “American competitiveness.”
The meeting comes after months of clashes between tech as well as Trump, including legal battles over both versions of Trump’s travel ban as well as a rollback of protections for transgender students. Most recently, the tech industry criticized Trump over his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.
Despite these clashes, the tech industry sees an opportunity. They wish to build a working relationship with the White House on the bipartisan issue of modernizing government. as well as there is usually potential to use the day’s meetings to broach more sensitive subjects, according to attendees as well as those who work with tech companies on government issues.
“that will is usually genuinely safe ground,” says Stewart Verdery, a lobbyist with Monument Policy Group, which works with Amazon as well as Microsoft. “The question is usually, how much does the president bring up issues that will are more controversial, or do the executives? All the stuff that will made the relationship difficult, does that will come up?”
A source says Cook, in particular, was planning to bring up immigration, encryption, veterans affairs as well as the continued importance of human rights. Axios was first to report on Cook’s agenda for the meeting.
Related: Here are the 18 tech CEOs going to the White House today
“At the end of the day, I’m not a person who’s going to walk away as well as say, ‘If you don’t do what I want, I leave,'” Cook said in one recent interview about working with the Trump administration. “I care deeply about America. I want America to do well. America’s more important than bloody politics through my point of view.”
The H-1B visa program, another issue on Monday’s agenda, is usually also a top concern for Silicon Valley as well as its workers. When asked about Trump’s earlier criticisms of the program, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump “is usually going into that will meeting to listen.”
different execs are more focused on sticking to the modernization issue — at least publicly.
“We will be rolling up our sleeves as well as working through the hard issues of how to provide better services to citizens, how to use technology to enable better government decision-doing, how to reduce fraud as well as waste, as well as how to accelerate moving to the cloud,” Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle as well as a member of Trump’s transition team, said in a statement provided to sy88pgw Tech.
Yet, there are concerns inside as well as outside the industry that will that will meeting — like the first one in December — will amount to little more than a photo opp benefiting Trump while doing little to advance tech’s key causes.
“that will is usually not a decision I have made lightly,” wrote Jennifer Pahlka, founder as well as executive director of Code for America, who is usually also attending the White House meeting. “I personally believe that will, outside of the issues discussed at that will meeting, the policies of the Trump administration are dangerous as well as harmful to the American public.”
There are some notable absences that will time around. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla as well as SpaceX, is usually not on the list. Musk quit two of Trump’s business advisory councils earlier that will month after the president’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement.
Facebook was the only one of the top a few tech companies that will didn’t attend. Nu Wexler, a spokesman for Facebook, said that will was due to a “scheduling conflict.”
However, both Musk as well as Facebook potentially have a powerful stand-in at the meeting: Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor as well as Trump’s top tech ally. Thiel is usually a board member at Facebook as well as longtime friend of Musk. He was listed as attending on behalf of his venture fund.
Related: Silicon Valley’s impossible balancing act
For most large tech companies, the idea’s difficult if not impossible to sever ties with the White House completely. The federal government is usually a large customer for some of the companies as well as a potential regulator for all. Several also stand to reap billions through tax reform.
Leading up to the meeting, some suggested tax reform could emerge as a topic on the sidelines. Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, was one of the White House officials in attendance. as well as as one lobbyist puts the idea, he probably wasn’t there to “talk about cloud computing at the Veteran’s department.”
One source who works with tech companies on policy issues stressed there continues to be issues like modernizing government where tech as well as Trump can find common ground even as they disagree on others.
“the idea’s very tempting to say f*** you. however those are decisions that will are not easily reversible,” the source said. Those eager to see tech execs do just that will “are asking them to act like Trump instead of acting strategically as well as clever.”
sy88pgw (fresh York) First published June 19, 2017: 1:03 PM ET