EXCLUSIVE: Eric Schmidt, the billionaire former CEO of Google and longtime Democratic donor, took President Biden’s former science adviser, Eric Lander, to a luxurious retreat in Montana during his tenure in the White House, e-mails reveal. emails reviewed by Fox News Digital.
Internal White House emails — obtained by government watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) and shared exclusively with Fox News Digital — show that in July 2021, Lander, his wife Lori and daughter Jessica stole aboard a private jet operated by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic company founded by Schmidt in 2017, at the private Yellowstone Weekend summit hosted annually by Schmidt in Montana.
A spokesperson for Lander told Fox News Digital that the former official reimbursed Schmidt Futures for his travel expenses and the White House attorney’s office approved the trip. However, PPT director Michael Chamberlain expressed concern over Lander’s decision to make the trip.
“Inappropriately taking private or charter flights for travel has caused the loss of more than one senior executive in the executive branch,” Chamberlain told Fox News Digital. “The personnel and resources that have flowed into the OSTP from a handful of wealthy and powerful individuals and organizations should give the American public pause to consider whether the factors behind this generosity are not entirely altruistic.”
“The Biden administration has made a very public commitment to putting science above politics and has been very vocal about upholding its policies of scientific integrity,” Chamberlain continued. “The public remains skeptical, and this incident does nothing to assuage that skepticism.”
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At the time of the trip, Lander was director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), giving him a prominent role in shaping policy in the Biden administration. He finally resigned from his post last year after allegations of treating staff in a “disrespectful and demeaning” manner.
In an email dated July 11, 2021, Schmidt Futures office assistant Adam Topper emailed Lander, his wife Lori and OSTP Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Lo at name of Schmidt and Jared Cohen, a partner of Schmidt and the president of global affairs at Goldman. Sachs, with the Yellowstone weekend itinerary and travel arrangements.
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According to the email, Lander, his wife, and daughter traveled on a “Schmidt Futures Charter” from Washington, DC, to Montana on July 15, 2021, and back a few days later. Schmidt and Cohen also provided accommodations for Lander and his family near the exclusive Yellowstone Club, the sprawling members-only ski and golf resort in Big Sky, Montana, where Yellowstone Weekend is held each summer.
“On behalf of your hosts, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, we look forward to welcoming you next week for the 10th Annual Yellowstone Weekend!” Topper wrote Lander in the July 2021 email a few days before the trip.
Along with listing his flight and accommodation details, the email said the Landers would be staying with fellow Yellowstone Weekend attendees Matteo Renzi, the former Italian prime minister, and Mathias Cormann, the general secretary. of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. And an attached calendar of events showed that the summit included various “sessions”, receptions and activities.
“Dr. Lander has received approval from the White House Counsel’s Office for this trip and has reimbursed all applicable expenses,” Lander’s spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement.
A source close to the conference confirmed that Lander requested an invoice for the trip in August 2021 and his payment has since been received.
According to a 2020 report by the nonprofit Tech Transparency Project, little is known about Schmidt’s secret retreat except that it regularly attracts high-profile politicians, political analysts, celebrities and executives. Senator Cory Booker, DN.J., musicians Lady Gaga and Leon Bridges, actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, journalist Ronan Farrow and various DC insiders are all counted among the known former participants.
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White House emails reviewed by Fox News Digital also showed that a month before the retirement, Lander exchanged several emails with Cohen and Topper about the ethical implications of attending the event. The communications, however, did not address the potential implications of the private jet travel and accommodation provided in Lander.
In an email to Cohen on June 19, 2021, Lander said he spoke to White House legal advisers who briefed him on a series of conditions for the trip that he listed.
For example, Lander said he was told he could not speak in an official capacity on behalf of the federal government at the retreat and would have to take a vacation to attend the retreat.
Lander was also told that he was not permitted to share nonpublic information and that any remarks he made should include a disclaimer stating that the views shared did not represent those of the Biden administration. .
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“Please ensure that the organizer of this event is aware that you are attending in a personal capacity only and does not advertise the event in any way that suggests otherwise,” said one of the conditions Lander has. included in his email to Cohen.
“It is important to inform the organizer not to identify you by your official title or position in any promotional material, or on any website or invitation, except that your official title or position may be used in connection with a biography, which also contains at least three additional biographical details about yourself, and which does not give your official title/position more prominence than your other biographical details.”
Over the next few days, Lander and the event organizers discussed in several emails how he would be listed in their retirement package. At one point, Topper, Schmidt’s assistant, informed Lander that the packages were non-promotional and “exclusively for attendees while they are at Yellowstone Weekend”. Topper has since moved to the White House to work for Vice President Kamala Harris.
“He was not permitted to attend this event in an official capacity,” a White House OSTP spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement. “He attended this event in a personal capacity, was not there on behalf of the federal government, and was briefed on his ethical obligations.”
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Meanwhile, Schmidt is a prolific contributor to Democratic Party political campaigns and has led an effort to build the tech capabilities of Democratic candidates. Schmidt — who has an estimated net worth north of $24 billion, according to Bloomberg — has sent more than $12 million to Democrats in recent years, according to Federal Election Commission documents.
Schmidt also made $227,000 in in-kind contributions to STAC Labs, a tech startup he launched in 2019, which he funded through Schmidt Futures, for its work building tech and voter data analytics services across the country. name of 18 state Democratic parties, additional election data showed.
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And Schmidt has quietly developed an intricate network allowing him to have significant influence over artificial intelligence and public policy in the White House, Fox News Digital reported last week.
Schmidt worked as CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011, then as chairman of the tech giant until 2015. He then worked as executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, until 2018, and as its technical adviser until 2020.
Fox News Digital reporter Aaron Kliegman contributed to this report.
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