FOIA documents obtained by Motherboard show a draft invitation list and event schedule.
Image: Flickr/The White House
On June 22, 2017, industry leaders convened at the White House for an exclusive summit. The event, called "American Leadership in Emerging Technology," was the pinnacle of the administration's Technology Week—an effort spearheaded by Jared Kushner, under the banner of his new department, the White House Office of American Innovation.
Among the Technology Week invitees were Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, and other tech CEOs. While the week was billed as a public-private sector conclave, those who attended were heavily scrutinized for pandering to President Trump while simultaneously opposing his political ideologies.
In light of this, Motherboard submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Technology Week materials prepared by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which organized the event. Yesterday, we received a draft invitation list, and a schedule of the event's "breakout sessions."
In total, OSTP refused to provide 27 pages—and only gave us nine—under the FOIA exemption that "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters" can be withheld from the public.
The invitation list sorts guests into three categories: "5G & Internet of Things"; "Unmanned Aircraft Systems"; and "Tech Investment." Named are representatives from companies like AT&T, General Electric, venture fund 500 Startups, AirMap, and natural gas utility Xcel Energy.
A similar list was reported by Axios at the time. The list that Motherboard is publishing here includes a few more representatives from the companies named by Axios. It's unclear whether everyone named here actually attended.
Also provided by OSTP was a daily schedule of Thursday's individual "breakout sessions," where guests convened to discuss topics like geographical diversity in tech investment, drone regulatory challenges, and fostering innovation.
It's still not entirely clear what, exactly, Kushner's Office of American Innovation does. According to the White House, the department will tackle everything from modernizing government to informing economic policymaking, and is supposed to consult with the Director of OSTP. So far, however, the office's most visible accomplishments have been highly publicized roundtables with industry CEOs. In theory, Kushner's office was supposed to work closely with OSTP. In practice, Trump has seemingly taken OSTP's duties and has given them to Kushner.
OSTP, which oversaw many of these duties under President Obama, is arguably the most neglected department in Trump's White House. As of June, OSTP's Science Division has a roster of zero, after its last staffers departed. And those who still remain claim their expertise is hardly ever consulted by the administration.
OSTP is currently without a director, and only one political appointee—Michael Kratsios, formerly of Thiel Capital, and now Deputy US Chief Technology Officer—has been named in the last six months.