Nineteen days in, Trump’s presidency has already spawned the construction of a huge wall. It wasn’t the one the new president envisioned. It’s not on the southern border; it isn’t even physical. But the wall of resistance now confronting Trump from Silicon Valley — assembled in haste in the wake of his travel ban — is formidable nevertheless. And it’s only getting stronger. On Monday, Tesla and SpaceX joined some 130 other companies mostly from tech on a legal brief opposing the ban. Their additions to a list that already included Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft were significant because their founder, Elon Musk, serves on Trump’s advisory business council. The brief argues Trump’s order “violates the immigration laws and the Constitution” and “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation and growth.” (There were also some notable holdouts, including Oracle, IBM, and Cisco.) Meanwhile, over 200 tech investors and entrepreneurs are planning to send Trump a letter today that looks past the ban, calling the order and a likely forthcoming crackdown on foreign worker visas “morally and economically misguided,” adding it will “inflict irreversible harm on the startup community and America’s ability to compete globally.”
Looking back, last year’s Republican primary offered plenty of signs a breach between the industry and Trump was inevitable. The billionaire real estate developer was alone among the GOP frontrunners in declining to court the tech elite’s approval. While Jeb Bush called himself a “disruptor” and touted his Apple fanboy credentials, and Marco Rubio gave economic speeches at the Washington offices of tech giants like Google and Uber, Trump took the opposite tack, striking an actively hostile pose. When Apple CEO Tim Cook resisted FBI pressure to help crack the San Bernardino attacker’s phone, Trump said he would have come down so hard on the executive, “his head would be spinning all of the way back to Silicon Valley.” That was after Trump said if elected, he’d force the company to “start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.” Other tech luminaries got their share of abuse, too: Trump singled out Amazon’s tax avoidance strategies, for example, proclaiming at one point, “if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”
Industry insiders took some heart when investor Peter Thiel joined Trump’s transition team, guaranteeing that the then-incoming president would at least be hearing from someone who spoke their language. But on the immigration debate that’s powered tech’s budding feud with the new administration, it’s not clear Thiel is an ally. Though Thiel himself is an immigrant, having arrived in the U.S. from Germany with his family in the 1970s, back in 2008 he reportedly donated $1 million to NumbersUSA, a group dedicated to reducing immigration to pre-1965 levels. He’s declined to criticize the ban — though he hasn’t exactly endorsed it, either. And Palantir, a data-mining firm he cofounded that works with US Customs and Border Protection, didn’t join its industry brethren on the legal brief. Tech has other channels into the White House. Musk now looks to be the sector’s self-appointed ambassador to Trumpworld. And insiders say Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner has been solicitous. What fraying ties remain will soon be tested by the rollout of Trump’s new restrictions on visas for skilled foreign workers.
Trump himself now acknowledges that Republicans won’t be able to repeal and replace Obamacare in a matter of weeks, as he once pledged.
Trump’s embattled nominee has a new headache to confront: The revelation that for years, he employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper. Puzder said he was ended her employment when he became aware of her status and offered her help to become a legal resident.
“Wall Street insiders” tell the tabloid that the Mooch could get a second lease on the Trump administration gig (scuttled last week over ethics concerns) thanks to Blackstone Group CEO Steve Schwarzman. The private-equity kingpin, a top Trump advisor, cut a deal last year with the same Chinese conglomerate whose purchase of Scaramucci’s SkyBridge Capital hedge fund raised questions that sunk his appointment as a business liaison.
With Democrats locked out of power in Washington, the party’s states attorneys general are appointing themselves the last best hope to check Trump’s agenda — an authority they are road-testing in real time as they scramble to mount legal challenges to the travel ban.
The First Lady is suing the publisher of the Daily Mail for alleging she once worked as an escort, claiming the charge caused her to lose out on a “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to leverage her post-election fame to “launch a broad-based commercial brand.”
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Yesterday, we highlighted the $100 billion figure that the Wall Street Journal named as the potential windfall for investors in the six biggest banks if the Trump administration succeeds in rolling back regulations on the industry. But two of Wall Street’s most prominent figures — JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein — don’t have to wait for their Trump-enabled rewards. The two financiers together have seen their wealth climb by nearly a half-billion dollars since last year — thanks in large measure to the run their own banks’ stocks have enjoyed since the election.