Shortly after news broke yesterday that Travis Kalanick was stepping down from a board of business advisers communing with the Trump administration, Tesla and SpaceX owner Elon Musk released a public statement defending his participation. The group will meet with administration officials for the first time today.
The statement reads:
In December, I agreed to join the Presidential Advisory Forum to provide feedback on issues that I think are important for our country and the world. In tomorrow’s meeting, I and others will express our objections to the recent executive order on immigration and offer suggestions for changes to the policy.
Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration. My goals are to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to help make humanity a multi-planet civilization, a consequence of which will be the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and a more inspiring future for all. I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.
Musk’s hope that President Trump will listen to him (in order to eventually get more people into space) is not entirely unfounded — if the last few weeks have shown us anything, it’s that the president has a tendency to say whatever he was told by the last person he spoke with. But it’s unlikely that this business-advisory panel will ever occupy that slot (unless Musk can implant a device in Trump’s ear that allows him to whisper advice before any major decisions are made) and it seems more likely that the meetings will serve as a useful prop for an administration keen on seeming business-friendly.
That Musk felt the need to defend his position on the board at all also speaks to the immense pressure that businesses with any ties to Trump are now under. Tesla and SpaceX don’t rely on the same types of users that Uber has (unless you count “rich dudes” and “NASA” as users), and even Musk feels the need to protect his brands from Trump.