Jared Kushner speaks in public. And Washington takes notice

Pablo Tucker
June 20, 2017

The chief executive officers of companies ranging from Amazon (the world's largest internet company by revenue) to cloud computing giant VMware, held meetings with White House and other Trump administration officials to generate ideas to attempt to transform and modernize government services. As part of that push, more than 6,000 federal data centers could be consolidated, Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, said in remarks Monday afternoon ahead of the meeting. Alphabet Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who also attended, warned employees after the travel ban announcement that the Trump administration is going to do "evil things", according to a transcript BuzzFeed obtained.

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in an American Technology Council roundtable, accompanied by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, left, and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corporation at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2017. The meeting kicks off a week of administration events themed on technology. Spicer added that it was "pretty telling", despite differences numerous CEOs have with Trump, that the administration was able to bring them together "to further the president's agenda and to bring ideas to the table".

Tech executives in attendance also lobbied the president on high skill immigration reform, Microsoft CEO Brad Smith tweeted following the meeting. Others, including Oracle chief executive Safra Catz and Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel, praised Trump effusively.

MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga (L) speaks with Ivanka Trump as tech company leaders gather at a summit of the American Technology Council at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, U.S. June 19, 2017.

"Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution", Trump said on Monday.

The federal government spends more than $80 billion annually on information technology, employing about 113,000 computer professionals, according to the White House. Pockets of it, according to Kushner, who delivered most of the stats in an unemotional monotone, are using systems that are between 39 and 56 years old.

A recent decision by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to contract with a private company to manage the department's electronic medical records is an example of the kind of changes the American Technology Council will pursue, the officials said.

The officials also planned to discuss the H-1B visa program, which Trump has pledged to scale back despite the objections from Silicon Valley.

18 of the founding members of the council will attend the meeting, but two figures will be noticeably absent: Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk, and the former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick.

In a document outlining the working-group sessions, the White House said the federal government should require "making it easy for agencies to use the cloud".

The meeting at the White House saw Trump sit down with some of the biggest names from an industry that has frequently clashed with him on some of his key policies. Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, will oversee the event with Chris Liddell, a White House aide who directs the technology effort.

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