Peter Thiel will "have the ear" of President Donald Trump, or so the tech billionaire and Facebook board member tells the New York Times, and perhaps, according to an anonymous source for the Huffington Post, the more formal duty of transitioning power from sitting President Barack Obama to the President-Elect.
“A page in the book of history has turned, and there is an opening to think about some of our problems from a new perspective,” Thiel told the Times following the election results. “I’ll try to help the president in any way I can.” He added that Trump's odds "were very badly underestimated... Trump voters were not being captured by the polls. A lot of the dynamics were very similar to the Brexit vote in the UK.” Thiel didn't comment on the possibility of steering the Trump transition team, but HuffPo writes that his name is being considered in the event that New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who currently has that role, is further undone by the George Washington Bridge scandal in which two of his former top aides were convicted just last week.
Thiel's net worth of $3 billion comes from his cofounding of PayPal, his secretive investment firm Palantir, and his early investment in Facebook. Thiel's contrarian, libertarian views and open support of Donald Trump were unique in Silicon Valley, even embarrassing to his colleagues as recently as last month. Indeed, under pressure from Silicon Valley to justify his support for Trump when the world seemed a vastly different place than it does today (maybe it wasn't?) and a Trump presidency felt unlikely (lol, not anymore), Thiel appeared at The National Press Club to defend his views. There, he also assured journalists that his secret funding of a lawsuit against Gawker Media was motivated by his love for free speech and an independent press. As Thiel put it in a preview of the talk to the Times, "The millions of people who vote for Trump are not doing it because of the worst things he said or did... That’s ridiculous. The Americans who are voting for Trump are doing it because they judge the situation of the country to be urgent. We're at such a crucial point that you have to overlook personal characteristics.”
Thiel was also asked to justify his $1.25 million donation to Trump, which directly followed the leak of an Access Hollywood tape in which Trump gloated about sexually assaulting women. “I moved on her like a bitch," Trump said on the tape according to coverage in the Washington Post. Trump could "“Grab them by the pussy," he said. "You can do anything."
“Nobody thinks his comments about women were acceptable," Thiel said of Trump at the Press Club interview, defending the timing of his donation as coincidental. However, Thiel has never shown great concern for survivors of sexual assault: According to the Guardian, he wrote in his book The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus that “The purpose of the rape crisis movement seems as much about vilifying men as about raising ‘awareness,’” describing some instances of rape as no more than "belated regret."
Although the tech community as a whole appears shocked and appalled by Trump's victory, Thiel has always been in a different camp, and tells the Times he hopes his cohort will come around. “It’s important for it to be able to work with the rest of the country and the world,” he said. “At the end of the day, it would be crazy to simply spend four years issuing denunciatory tweets on Twitter. For a day or two, that’s fine. But I hope Silicon Valley will be more productive than that.”
Thiel might not be completely alone in the tech community, though: Perhaps his was just the most open Trump support. As he told the Times, “I was having dinner last week with a high-profile venture capitalist and he said, ‘I’m voting for Trump but I have to lie and tell everyone I’m voting for Gary Johnson.'" And Thiel? “I did vote,” he told the Times, indicating that his ballot was indeed cast for Trump. “I don’t always vote," he added, "but I thought you might ask, so I did.”