Tech Leaders and U.S. Politicians Gather on Island, Reportedly to Discuss How Trump Happened

Donald Trump

Donald Trump flashes the thumbs-up as he arrives on stage for the start of the prime time Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Some of the biggest names in technology attended the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum last weekend, where one of the main bullets on the agenda was to discuss the ascendancy (and hopeful decline) of Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House, The Huffington Post reports.

The off-the-record confab took place at the Sea Island Resort off the coast of Georgia, and was attended by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and former Facebook president Sean Parker. Major Republican leaders that were there included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Bush advisor Karl Rove and a group of U.S. Senators that included Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Billionaire GOP donor Philip Anschutz, who owns a stake in Sea Island, was also there, as was New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and The Weekly Standard founder William Kristol.

“A specter was haunting the World Forum -- the specter of Donald Trump,” Kristol wrote in an e-mailed report from the forum. "There was much unhappiness about his emergence, a good deal of talk, some of it insightful and thoughtful, about why he's done so well, and many expressions of hope that he would be defeated."

(Before the forum even began, Kristol curiously asked his social media followers to consider any tweets from him as “off the record.”)

The Huffington Post report said a highlight of the weekend was a presentation by Rove on Trump-related focus group data. According to Rove, Trump’s lack of “presidential” qualities is his greatest weakness and people see the billionaire’s behavior as erratic. A source said the discussion of Trump was actually more about “how this happened, rather than how are we going to stop him.”

Given the confidential nature of the forum, it’s unclear who was there for Rove’s presentation, or for any other Trump-related chatter -- and whether any of those concerned leaders happened to be from the tech sector. A source close to Cook insisted the Apple leader did not involve himself with politics while at Sea Island, rather he is said to have gotten into a heated exchange with Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas over the company’s battle with the FBI regarding encryption.

A spokesperson for AEI declined to comment on the attendees, instead calling it an “informal gathering of leading thinkers from all ideological backgrounds to discuss challenges that the United States and the free world face in economics, security and social welfare.”


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.