At a meeting on Wednesday with tech industry leaders, President-elect Donald Trump laid the flattery on extra thick, and it's understandable why his critics are speculating there could be a calculated reason behind it. In fact, his attempt at alliance-building could have a number of ulterior motives, one of which could be connected to his previously proposed database for tracking American Muslims.
The gathering took place at Trump Tower in New York and included the likes of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, PayPal's Peter Thiel, and Intel's Brian R Krzanich. And while Trump's children were in attendance, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, on the other hand, was noticeably absent.
The Guardian reported that journalists were only allowed to observe the meeting for the first few minutes at its start, but in that short time, Trump showered the tech giants with the kind of adulation he usually reserves for himself. Besides calling those in attendance "a truly amazing group of people" and repeatedly telling them, "There's nobody like you in the world," Trump attempted to appeal to their value of elitism and exclusivity by bragging about all the people he didn't invite to the meeting. Thiel received the bulk of Trump's compliments with the president-elect calling him "so terrific and so outstanding," as well as "a very special guy."
Following the litany of accolades, Trump ensured the group that he would make trade across borders much easier for them all. Why all the pats on the back and promises directed to tech company heads in particular? Trump may be looking to build personal alliances with these businesspeople so as to have access to their user databases and employee talent in the future.
The meeting comes on the heels of a widely-publicized open letter signed by over 1,200 tech employees (including some from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft) pledging to refuse to collaborate with, and speak out against, the building of a U.S. Muslim database. There's no telling if this pledge came up in Trump's recent meeting, but what was mentioned was the fact that the president-elect ensured a direct line of communication between him and the executives. "And you'll call my people, you'll call me," said Trump. "It doesn't make any difference. We have no formal chain of command."
Trump's remarks are startling. Not only is he already eschewing the chain of command that is one of the basic tenets of his upcoming position, he also seems to be in the process of creating political deals with handpicked heads of what he called "monster companies." And, considering his past remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, and even members of the media, there's little faith that these comments are solely in the interest of stimulating the American economy. The neveragain.tech pledge shows that tech employees already knew how important they would be in checking a Trump presidency. But now that he has held this meeting with tech company heads, upholding the pledge has become even more critical.