Pando

Uber's Emil Michael was apparently too awful, even for Donald Trump

By Sarah Lacy , written on June 26, 2019

From The Travis Shrugged Desk

Well, it seems Emil Michael, Uber’s notorious former 'SVP of business,' is back in the news again

A trove of leaked Trump Administration documents obtained by Axios shows that Michael was once considered as a potential candidate for Donald Trump's Secretary of Transportation.

This is not a total shock, given his history working as a special assistant to the Secretary of Defence and his time building the most disruptive company in the transportation space, Uber. Or at least it wouldn’t be for most execs with that resume. 

But this is Emil Michael, who unceremoniously left Uber in 2012 amid an investigation into Uber’s work culture and having been implemented in a series of scandals that eventually led to the ouster of the presumed “un-fireable” CEO Travis Kalanick. The same Emil Michael who famously threatened to spend a million dollars to smear me and my family because of my critical reporting on Uber, boasting that "nobody would know it was us."

Indeed, his threats against my family were among the “Potential Red Flags”  that Michael would have to be grilled about should he be vetted, according to the background check document.

Potential Red Flags

In 2014, Michael’s Comments About Digging Up Dirt On Journalists Critical Of Uber Got Him And The Company In Hot Water. Michael Suggested Uber Should Hire Opposition Researchers To Dig Into The Personal Life Of A Female Journalist. Michael Later Apologized And Was Disciplined By Uber For The Comments. (Ben Smith, “Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt On Journalists,” BuzzFeed, 11/17/14)

In 2013, Michael Got Into A Public Dispute With His Landlord, Filing A Restraining Order And Accusing His Landlord Of Waging A Harassment Campaign Designed To Make Michael Move. In Email Correspondence That Was Made Public, Michael Even Suggested To His Landlord That He Was Personal Friends With The Chief Of Police Who Would Come Over And Intercede On His Behalf.

The document goes on to suggest several questions that Michael should be asked during vetting, including…

  • Is there anything the President-elect’s team should know regarding your comments made in 2014, and were any covert operations conducted by Uber to undermine journalists?

  • Is there anything that could create public relations turbulence associated with this incident should you join the administration?

  • Would agree to stick to the President-elect’s messaging and media relations strategy should you have a public facing position in the administration?

Is there anything that could create public relations turbulence… should you join the administration? 

Speaking as the “female journalist” who Michael specifically threatened to target, let me answer that question for you, Trump administration: Yes. Many, many things.

In fact, the vetting dossier barely scratches the surface when it comes to reasons not to hire Emil Michael.  In case anyone else considers vetting Michael for a top job, here’s a reminder of a couple of other scandals in which Michael was implicated during his time at Uber...

  • An alleged plot to illegally obtain medical records of a woman who was sexual assaulted while using Uber, in order to attempt to smear her.

  • A ham-fisted attempt to silence Kalanick’s ex-girlfriend about an executive trip to a Korean escort bar, leading to her decision to go public with the story at the worst possible time for Uber.

And a couple other questions that might be worth asking...

  • Given his role working on Uber’s business development deals and his status as a trusted confidant for Kalanick, what (if any) was his involvement in the acquisition of Otto, Uber’s only real acquisition of any size, and the vehicle (no pun intended) for allegedly stealing billions of dollars in Google’s intellectual property?

  • Despite Michael’s protestations that he was just drunkenly blowing off steam when he threatened to go after my family, it was subsequently revealed in court documents that Uber had used exactly these tactics to silence critics, which a judge called “possibly criminal”. How many other critics has Michael threatened to smear during the course of his career? Drunk or sober.

And the biggest question of all: Exactly how awful does someone have to be - threatening to abuse his money and power to attack women and threaten their children; wanting to destroy journalists; trying to leverage his relationship with law enforcement to settle business disputes; the whole Korean escort thing - to be too toxic for a job in the Trump administration