White House innovation office holds first conference call with CEOs

The new White House Office of American Innovation led by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner kicked off with its first major conference call Friday afternoon, including a discussion of high-skilled immigration led by Trump adviser Stephen Miller.

The hour-long call featured a roster of top technology investors and CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, IBM CEO Ginni Rommety and others, according to two people familiar with the call.

White House participants included Kushner, Miller, Chris Liddell, the director of strategic initiatives, Reed Cordish, head of intragovernmental and technology initiatives, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Haley Van Dyck, who works on digital services.

The session was mainly intended to offer an overview of the new office and offer ideas on how big tech companies could contribute to efforts to modernize federal systems, especially at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the people familiar with the call said.

Miller, who rose to prominence as an outspoken critic of U.S. immigration policies, talked about possible changes to the H-1B visa program, which technology companies use to hire high-skilled foreign workers. Miller talked about ways to prevent the visas from being used for entry-level positions, according to people familiar with the call.

Miller, until recently mostly associated with embattled senior White House aide Steve Bannon in the nationalist wing of the White House, has lately sought to ally himself with Kushner. That shift comes as power in the West Wing has flowed to more moderate advisers favored by Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, such as Powell and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

People familiar with the call said CEOs peppered Kushner with questions about how their companies could get involved in his efforts to streamline federal government services. “Re-inventing government is not always the most exciting thing, so it was interesting to see how much energy there was,” one participant said afterward.

Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

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