By Tory Newmyer
January 31, 2017

The big business backlash to President Trump’s immigration ban continues gaining steam. On the first full workday since Trump signed the order, opposition from the tech industry in particular consolidated, as voices from other industries — from Wall Street to Detroit — began registering their objections, too. And significantly, the pushback showed signs of morphing from calibrated statements of disapproval into active resistance. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos announced his company has reached out to Congressional leaders in both parties to work on a legislative response; meanwhile, the online retail giant, Expedia and Microsoft are backing a suit from the Washington state attorney general seeking a national restraining order on the White House directive. (The outlook for Silicon Valley’s relations with the new administration is only growing darker, with Trump expected to issue an executive order restricting visas for foreign-born tech talent and another killing a program that would have encouraged startup founders to immigrate to the U.S.)

An arguably bigger question for the corporate world: What does this episode predict about how the administration will pursue the rest of its agenda? Business types nervous about Trump’s populist talk on the trail took heart during the transition by noting the number from their own ranks tapped for prominent roles in the cabinet and beyond. These figures, the hope has gone, will act as a check on the nationalist impulse in Trump’s inner circle personified by chief strategist Steve Bannon. If the process that produced the ban is any indication, however, now would be a reasonable time to start worrying again. Bannon’s crew drafted the order without input from the administration’s top national security officials. Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, awaiting confirmation as Secretary of State, reportedly told the president’s political advisers he was stunned to have been left out of the loop. It’d be a mistake to draw conclusions too broadly eleven days in. But those interests betting, for example, that former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, now a top economic adviser as Trump’s chair of the National Economic Council, will moderate Bannon and company when the administration turns its attention toward remaking the tax code and overhauling trade policy might want to reconsider their confidence.

Tory Newmyer


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