According to a new report from NBC News, Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg dined with President Trump at the White House last month while the CEO was in town to testify to Congress on Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency.
The meal was also attended by Facebook board member Peter Thiel, a Trump donor and high-profile entrepreneur best known for co-founding PayPal.
Interestingly, the meeting was previously unknown to the public. Why it was not disclosed by its participants at the time remains unclear; the White House has since remained mum on the dinner, while Facebook has characterized the occasion as routine.
“As is normal for a CEO of a major U.S. company, Mark accepted an invitation to have dinner with the President and First Lady at the White House,” a Facebook representative commented.
Alas, we only know that Trump and Zuckerberg met privately but not what they discussed. Treading into the realm of speculation here, one could be forgiven for presuming the dinner included at least one passing reference to cryptocurrency — especially since during that week the Facebook CEO was in the Capitol explicitly to testify on the Libra.
Give Libra a Chance?
For all we know, Trump and Zuckerberg’s conversation was a general one and covered a range of subjects, like matters pertaining to privacy and censorship on social media. With that said, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two did briefly discuss the Libra stablecoin project during their recent dinner.
Why? Because not long ago the Libra was at the forefront of President Trump’s attention, and not in a good way either. Over the summer, Trump published a series of tweets wherein he blasted the viability of bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and the Libra altogether.
“Facebook Libra’s ‘virtual currency’ will have little standing or dependability,” Trump said at the time, going on to assert the dollar would remain unmatched in the U.S. and that Facebook would have to “seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks” if it pressed forward with the stablecoin.
To be sure, those were essentially the worst remarks Zuckerberg could have hoped for from the sitting president. He might have taken his latest meeting with the president as an opportunity to try and politely open Trump’s mind on how the Libra could benefit the U.S.
Again, this isn’t to say that the aforementioned dinner was entirely centered around the Libra or that Zuckerberg had any one single motivation in accepting Trump’s invitation. Nevertheless, the event marked a prime opportunity for the Facebook CEO to attempt softening Trump on the Libra, which will reportedly be mostly backed by USD reserves.
A Matter of the Bully Pulpit
In the arena of American political science, the term “bully pulpit” refers not to an actual institution but rather to the rhetorical influence and reach an American president has just on account of being president.
Trump’s aforementioned tweets on cryptocurrency are but one example of the bully pulpit being used, and in that case much to the Libra’s detriment. If Zuckerberg wanted to employ an “all hands on deck” approach to saving the widely embattled Libra, applying a personal touch to winning over the man currently behind the bully pulpit would certainly be one avenue to take.
Indeed, having Trump promote or even simply tolerate the Libra is exponentially preferable for Facebook’s leadership than having him take unabashed swipes at it in front of the entire world.
Whether a Libra conversation occurred at all remains to be seen, and whether Trump could even be persuaded on the project is an open question for now, too. But in the very least, the motivation would have been there for Zuckerberg to have made a brief case for the Libra to Trump.