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Trump Gathers Top Tech CEOs for Dec. 14 Strategy Talks
Posted December 12, 2016
Trump Gathers Top Tech CEOs for Dec. 14 Strategy Talks
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By Shirley Siluk. Updated December 12, 2016 10:09AM

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No agenda has yet been publicly circulated for President-elect Donald Trump's planned sit-down with tech company executives, but topics likely up for discussion include cybersecurity, net neutrality, repatriation of overseas corporate profits, and tech worker visas.

Among the executives reported to have received invitations to the get-together, which is set for Wednesday, December 14 at Trump Tower in New York City, are Larry Page, CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet; Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon; Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

A few of those invitees were repeatedly targeted for criticism by Trump during and even before the long 2016 presidential campaign. For example, during the FBI's legal efforts to force Apple to unlock an iPhone seized after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. in December 2015, Trump called for people to boycott the company. The president-elect had even stronger words for Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, which had its press credentials revoked for awhile by the Trump campaign.

Tech Execs Generally Mum

Page, Bezos, Cook, Sandberg and Nadella all plan to attend Wednesday's roundtable with Trump, according to a Recode report over the weekend that cited "numerous sources with knowledge of the situation." Others also expected to join the discussion include Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco; Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM; Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel; and Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle.

"I plan to tell the [p]resident-elect that we are with him and will help in any way we can," Catz said in a statement quoted by Recode. "If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation and negotiate better trade deals, the U.S. technology industry will be stronger and more competitive than ever."

Shortly after the election, Catz was reported to be under consideration for a cabinet position in the Trump administration, although her name has not come up in recent appointment announcements.

While Trump was vociferous on Twitter throughout the campaign, most technology company executives said little about the candidate and haven't offered many more comments since Election Day. One of the few tech leaders to offer vocal support for Trump was PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is currently serving on the executive committee of the president-elect's transition team.

Mixed Messages on Cybersecurity

In an interview with NPR yesterday, venture capitalist Chris Sacca, who supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign, said he believes a Trump administration poses threats to the tech industry and thinks executives should decline to attend this week's roundtable with the president-elect.

"I think we all need to worry that tech leaders showing up to Trump Tower, just normalize a person who has the potential to be an incredibly despotic leader, showing up there while he is still saber-rattling about censorship, saber-rattling about immigration, refusing to denounce authoritarianism, refusing to denounce hate being done in his name, will not just legitimize him in the eyes of America, but I also think there are going to be ramifications for those tech leaders who go," Sacca told NPR host Ailsa Chang. "They will soon find they will not have people applying to work at their companies."

During the campaign, Trump said his administration would make cybersecurity "a major priority for both the government and the private sector" and vowed to promote the development of not just defensive technologies but offensive technologies as well.

"For non-state terror actors, the United States must develop the ability -- no matter how difficult -- to track down and incapacitate those responsible," Trump said in an early October statement ahead of one speech. "We should turn cyber warfare into one of our greatest weapons against the terrorists."

Critics, however, have noted that Trump has been declining most daily intelligence briefings ahead of taking office and has repeatedly expressed doubt about reports that Russian hackers interfered with U.S. systems and data during the campaign.

On Twitter this morning, Trump said, "Unless you catch 'hackers' in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?"

Pictured above: (far left) President-elect Donald Trump; (top row, from left) Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook; (middle row, from left) Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; (bottom row from left) Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz.

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