Trump officials cancelled public appearances at the biggest tech show of the year over the 'optics' of attending during government shutdown, Fox Business News reports

elaine chaoReuters/Carlos Barria

  • High-powered officials in Trump's administration have pulled out of public appearances at major events thanks to the government shutdown.
  • Business Insider has confirmed that Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has cancelled her CES appearances, including her attendance at a big, invitational Leaders in Technology Dinner.
  • These cancellations are reportedly due to "optics," meaning Trump officials are concerned that traveling with their staffs for speaking gigs is not a good look while the government isn't fully operational and 800,000 non-essential employees are furloughed without pay.

As 180,000 people swarm Las Vegas to discover the latest and greatest in consumer and automotive technology, there's a crop of people who are noticeably not there: high-powered officials in Trump's administration.

Trump officials have cancelled their attendance at CES across the board due to the "optics" of appearing at the show during the government shutdown, reports Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman from the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Claman is on tap to do a fireside chat interview with Waymo CEO John Krafcik at an invitation-only dinner for 600 technologists and government official policy makers. Waymo is the self-driving car company spun off from Google.

One of the most prominent policy makers scheduled to attend that dinner was Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. But, like other Trump officials, Chao has also cancelled her CES attendance, Claman reports, and a source close to Waymo confirmed the cancellation to Business Insider.


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CES is a major show for Chao. She had planned speaking engagements, meetings, and visits to the show floor and certain booths. Her cancelation was so last minute that her secret service detail had already secured the area for her, Claman reports.

Chao (who is married to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell) has been a staunch advocate of autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars and drones along with other new transportation technologies. She's been working on regulations that support these nascent industries. CES is a hub where the leaders in these industries congregate and new technologies are displayed.

Chao was even slated to give a keynote talk on Wednesday at CES, where she was expected to announce a new rule that allowed drones to fly over people, Politico reported.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai also cancelled his CES appearances for the second year in a row, and Commissioner Brendan Carr bailed, too. Last year, Pai cancelled over death threats after he reversed net neutrality regulations. This year, he cited the government shutdown as his reason for cancelling.

The government shutdown is now in its 17th day and Trump officials who have not been furloughed themselves are increasingly bowing out of public appearances. Beyond the CES cancellations, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb was supposed to deliver the keynote address at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference today in San Francisco and announce a new office to speed up drug approvals.

But he instead scheduled an appearance over webcast instead, telling Stat News he canceled the trip because the FDA was operating with limited staff and he needed to stay at the office.

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