Update: Turns out, hours after I published this column, Trump was informed that most of his manufacturing council was going to quit. Bravo! But then Trump did what any spoiled eight-year old child would do: He took his toys and went home. Trump disbanded his two most prominent business councils, essentially firing the rest of his advisors before they had a chance to quit.
Five brave business leaders have quit Donald Trump’s manufacturing council over the past few days. And the world knows exactly who of the CEOs on Trumps various business councils remain uncomfortably sitting on their hands, hoping for a different news cycle, praying the current Trump-fueled circus will pass, sparing them comeuppance and consequence.
“Tech Week” for the Trump administration begins today — although if the effort to set a policy agenda is as ineffectual as the recent “Infrastructure Week,” this might be the last thing you hear about it. Tech CEOs — many of the same faces who trooped to Trump Tower last December, including Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet/Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt, and a host of others (but no one, apparently, from Facebook) — are gathering at the White House under the auspices of Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s American Technology Council (Tony Romm in Recode).
This week, Kushner is slated to bring peace to the Middle East while he also interviews a bevy of lawyers to protect him from the widening net of the Russian election-interference investigation. So he might be a little busy. But the Tech Week agenda is packed too, with issues like modernizing gov tech, cyber-security, and high-skilled immigration. Cook and others will reportedly also raise the topics of privacy and human rights (Axios). We’ll see how far that gets.
Silicon Valley’s newest congressman has some very choice words for President Trump. He has some pretty strong ideas as well.
On the day Trump announced he was pulling out of the Paris climate accords, I sat down with freshman House Representative Ro Khanna, known in Washington as “the Valley’s congressman.” A tech industry lawyer by training, Khanna ran twice for the seat he now occupies, failing in his first effort to unseat longtime incumbent Mike Honda in 2014. But his 2016 victory came with the sour aftertaste of the Trump administration, and Khanna’s sweeping ideas — like a trillion dollar rewrite of the tax code — were essentially dead on arrival in the chaotic aftermath of Trump’s ascendance.
But Khanna is still optimistic he can deliver for his powerful district — Facebook, Google, and Apple all fall within the borders of his constituency. Then again, he’s well aware of the lopsided nature of business interests on politics, which is why he refused all PAC money in his bids for Congress. This allows him to speak — and vote — his conscience. Which he very much did in the interview below, edited for clarity.
NewCo Shift Forum Dialogs, in Partnership with Work Market
Political veteran John Heilemann frames the consequences of an unexpected election
For more than 20 years, journalist John Heilemann has covered America’s presidential elections. He was the very first online journalist accredited by a presidential campaign (in 1996, by Bill Clinton’s White House, as a correspondent for Wired and Hotwired), and went on, with his colleague Mark Halperin, to write two New York Times No 1. best selling books on the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections (Game Change and Double Down). In the past two years, Heilemann has established himself as a quick-witted host on Showtime’s acclaimed documentary series The Circus, as well as Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect.
U.S. stock markets have boomed since Donald Trump’s unexpected victory last November. The conventional explanation is that investors got excited by the twin prospect of business tax cuts, which seemed inevitable given Republican domination of the federal government, and of huge infrastructure spending programs that Trump promised. (If you’re doing the math, you can see that investors did not worry about the government taxing less while spending more. Deficits? What deficits?)
By now, however, it should be clear to everyone that virtually none of the GOP program is going to get enacted any time soon, if ever, given the dysfunction in Washington and the Trump administration’s limp grasp on the levers of power. Yet the markets remain ebullient. What’s up with that?
It seems increasingly clear that this impeachment thing is going to happen. I’ll confess, I’m terrified about the whole idea.
That’s not to say that I don’t believe Mr. Trump has committed impeachable offenses. After he was elected, I believed his refusal to comply with the Foreign Bribery Clause and the allegations surrounding Russia were sufficient grounds for an elector not to vote for him. His behavior since coming into office — again, the Foreign Bribery Clause, the obstruction charges, and now the careless burning of a foreign source by giving the Russians confidential material — I also believe easily meets the impeachment standard of our Constitution.
When the first Trump travel ban rolled out in a flurry of airport chaos and outraged protests last month, tech companies flocked to join the swell of opposition. 127 firms signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the legal challenge to the president’s executive order that led to its demise.
But the arrival of Trump Ban 2.0 this week has evoked less of a response from tech, and so far, although 58 companies have signed on to support a challenge to the new order, Google, Apple, and Facebook are not among them (Reuters).
A conversation with the key players in last Fall’s biggest election controversy
Following the explosive interview with Clinton campaign chief John Podesta at NewCo Shift Forum last month, a panel of experts sat down with Podesta and moderator John Heilemann to discuss the implications of Russia’s hacking on the US election process. Shawn Henry, president of the firm which identified the hackers, and Marc Elias, general counsel to the Clinton campaign, discussed Trump’s claims of voter fraud, whether the hacking will effect the 2018 midterm elections, and more. Below is the video and the full transcript, edited for clarity, of the conversation between the three.
John Heilemann (JH): We have here Marc Elias, who’s part of Perkins Coie, which is one of the sponsors of this forum, was also the chief election lawyer for the Hillary Clinton campaign, and a colleague of John Podesta’s.
A good organization complements its leaders’ weaknesses; a bad one magnifies their flaws. Under President Trump, the entire executive branch of the U.S. government has turned into a feedback loop for the man’s moods and outbursts, as an extraordinary account in The Washington Postmakes clear.
The White House team is on a bipolar roller-coaster that rises and falls with Trump’s state of mind — and we’re all along for the ride. If you’ve ever worked for someone with Angry Boss Syndrome, you know how dysfunctional this can get. The organizational focus narrows down to assessments of the boss’s psyche and efforts to influence it, while everyone scurries to buffer themselves from executive whim and rage.
The Chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and former Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton joined John Heilemann for a candid conversation about “The Hacked Election.” His commentary is not to be missed.
In his first interview since the November election, John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chair whose hacked personal email arguably changed the course of last Fall’s election, suggested a strong remedy for the distrust in democracy sown since Trump’s surprise win: Establish a 9/11-style commission to investigate all the unresolved questions about Russia’s meddling in the election, its role in the hacking, and its possible ties to the Trump campaign.
Below is the full, unedited conversation between Podesta and John Heilemann, author of Game Change, Double Down, and co-creator and host of Showtime’s The Circus. The interview begins with particularly poignant footage of Podesta on election day, and charges through his anger with FBI director James Comey, the role of Russia in the election, and the “vile stream” of fake news driving today’s political discussion.