Kimberly White, Getty Images; inset: Steve Pope, Getty Images
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Alphabet CEO Page Among Tech Leaders Scheduled to Meet With Trump

Dec. 12, 2016
“This is something of a mending fences, building bridges kind of meeting. The goal may be to get Trump to be somewhat supportive of the tech industry.”

President-elect Donald Trump’s sit down with technology titans next week will have two marquee attendees: Alphabet Inc.’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.

Page, CEO of the Google parent company, and Schmidt, the chairman, plan to be at the meeting, a person familiar with the decision said late Friday. The person asked not to be identified because the decisions were not public. An Alphabet spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

An invitation went out earlier this week from members of Trump’s transition team, including venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Oracle Corp. co-CEO Safra Catz, and Cisco Systems Inc. CEO Chuck Robbins have said they plan to attend.

Tech news website Recode reported earlier that Page, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook and Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will go, along with Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich. Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos has also been invited and is likely to attend, Recode added.

While an agenda was not listed on the invitation, the discussion is expected to touch on issues, including immigration and trade, where Trump’s positions during the campaign were opposed by most of the tech industry.

“Tech was very heavily for Hillary Clinton and that was where they put their money and their algorithms,” Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump adviser, said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “He will be president for all Americans and that includes these important industries. I’m glad they’re coming.”

Alphabet has become a major lobbying force in Washington, and has a wide range of national policy interests. Those include taxes on offshore earnings, data encryption, autonomous vehicles, telecommunications spectrum, and health care. Trump has proposed weakening net neutrality rules, a longstanding priority for Google and other internet companies.

The meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, will likely focus on possible repatriation of overseas earnings and corporate tax reform, said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. But it will primarily be a chance for tech’s leaders to find some common ground with an uncertain administration. 

“This is something of a mending fences, building bridges kind of meeting,” he said. “The goal may be to get Trump to be somewhat supportive of the tech industry.”

Atkinson also said the meeting may address China, where several U.S. tech companies have struggled to find a foothold. Google pulled its services from mainland China in 2010 primarily over concerns about censorship.

Schmidt’s attendance at the round table is not surprising — the executive, who was Google CEO when it withdrew from China, is the company’s primary political and diplomatic emissary. 

Yet Schmidt was also a prominent backer of Clinton, Trump’s Democratic competitor. Leaked documents posted online by WikiLeaks revealed e-mails between Schmidt and top Clinton aides about the campaign’s strategy, and he was photographed wearing a staff badge at Clinton’s headquarters on election night.

Page is more technology visionary than political operative, and he has shied away from public appearances. The gravity of the meeting next week may have forced his hand.

“If Trump calls,” said Atkinson, “if you’re a CEO, you go.”

By Mark Bergen

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