President Trump paid compliments to two billionaire tech CEOs in a sit-down interview with CNBC conducted on the sidelines of the World Economic Summit in Davos Wednesday.
The president said politics could be in Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckberg’s future, while he praised Tesla head Elon Musk‘s ‘genius.’
‘I heard he was going to run for president,’ Trump said of Zuckerberg. ‘That wouldn’t be too frightening, I don’t think.’
‘But he does have that monster behind him,’ Trump added, alluding to Zuckerberg’s social network, and suggesting that he did not see the Facebook boss as a potential rival in 2020.
Trump also said Zuckerberg has done a ‘hell of a job.’
The Facebook founder and CEO’s estimated net worth is $82.1 billion, according to Forbes, and Elon Musk’s is $31.9 billion.
Backing both men is politically loaded. Facebook is under fire over political advertising, while SpaceX represents a rival to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space firm.
Facebook has come under intense criticism fire for not being more transparent with its political ads, especially in light of the 2016 election meddling by the Russians that was exposed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
It has also been criticized for letting politicians lie in advertising on the platform, an issue which prompted Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to call for a major legal change which would make Facebook legally responsible for claims made on its platform.
Trump didn’t have an opinion on the political ads issue, saying, ‘I’d rather him just do whatever he’s going to do.’
Facebook has also taken heat for letting fake news – websites purposely doctored to look like news sites – flourish on the network.
Trump has dined with Zuckerberg at the White House and repeated Wednesday that the Facebook founder had told him he was ‘number one’ on the network.
Trump also gushed over Musk, the founder of both Tesla and SpaceX, who has voiced his own opposition to Trump’s climate change policies and backs Andrew Yang for the 2020 presidential race.
While interviewer Joe Kernen from ‘Squawk Box’ mentioned Musk’s car company Tesla, the president wanted to talk about space.
‘You have to give him credit. I spoke to him very recently, and he’s also doing the rockets,’ Trump said.
‘And – he does good at rockets too, by the way. I never saw where the engines come down with no wings, no anything, and they’re landing.’
Trump was referring to some of the rockets made by Musk’s company SpaceX, which return to earth upright rather .
‘And I was worried about him, because he’s one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius,’ Trump said.
‘You know, we have to protect Thomas Edison and we have to protect all of these people that – came up with originally the light bulb and– the wheel and all of these things.’
‘And he’s one of our very smart people and we want to – we want to cherish those people,’ the president added.
Musk met Trump at the White House, in January 2017 when Trump invited CEOs to the White House for a ‘listening session’ and agreed to serve in an advisory role, returning to the White House the next month.
But in June that year Musk quit his role when Trump said he would be pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate change accord.
His latest talks with the president had not been disclosed until now.
Trump surrounded himself with a number of business leaders during his trip to Davos, Switzerland for the annual forum.
On Wednesday morning he started his day with a breakfast with American CEOs including Apple’s Tim Cook, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman, Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan and more.
Overall, Trump met with 31 company heads Wednesday at breakfast, the White House said.
The president was feeling so good about his meetings that he scheduled an impromptu press conference Wednesday afternoon to take a victory lap before flying back to Washington.
‘It’s been a tremendous success, everyone’s talking about America’s unprecedented economic successes,’ Trump said as he opened the presser. ‘Really the talk of the town, so to speak.’