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Apple CEO Successfully Avoids Discussing Trump When Asked About Trump

During the company's earnings call, Tim Cook would neither confirm nor deny President Trump's claim that the company would build three manufacturing plants in the United States.

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When asked by an analyst about President Donald Trump's claim that Apple had promised to build "three, big beautiful plants" in the US, Apple CEO Tim Cook managed to talk about almost everything other than Trump.

"We have created 2 million jobs in the US, and we're incredibly proud of that. We do view that we have a responsibility in the US to increase economic activity, including increasing jobs," Cook said during the company's Q3 2017 earnings call.

He went on to detail what Apple does economically in the US, including how the iOS platform supports the jobs of hundreds of thousands app developers. As for the manufacturing plants specifically, Cook was pointedly noncommittal, neither addressing Trump's claim or specifically refuting it.

Instead, he noted that in 2016 Apple bought "$50 billion worth of goods and services from US-based suppliers" including goods like high-tech glass that is then shipped to China where iPhones are manufactured by Apple partners.

He also mentioned that Apple's "Advanced Manufacturing Fund," which will put at least $1 billion into US companies, had invested $200 million into Corning, the Kentucky-based Apple glass supplier. As for new manufacturing plants specifically, the closest Cook would get to discussing it was saying that it was "probable" that "several plants ... can benefit from having some investment to grow or expand or even maybe set up shop in the US for the first time."

Trump said last week in an interview with the Wall Street Journal "he’s promised me three big plants – big, big, big."

When pushed for followup, Trump said, according to a full transcript published today by Politico: "We’ll have to see. You can call him. But I said, Tim, unless you start building your plants in this country, I won’t consider my administration an economic success, OK? And he’s called me and he says, you know, they’re going forward, three big, beautiful plants. You’ll have to call him. I mean, maybe he won’t tell you what he tells me, but I believe he will do that. I really believe it."

Apple declined to comment when the Wall Street Journal first published Trump's comments on Apple last week.

Apple has 80,000 US employees and claims that it supports about 2 million US jobs, including people employed at its suppliers and in the "App Store ecosystem." While the company does some manufacturing in the US — the Mac Pro is made in Austin, Texas, for example — most takes place via a vast network of international manufacturing partners.

Trump is not the first US president to push Apple executives to bring more of the company's manufacturing to its home country. Then-president Barack Obama asked Steve Jobs in 2011 what would have to change for Apple to make iPhones in the US.

Jobs' response, according to the New York Times: “Those jobs aren’t coming back."

Matthew Zeitlin is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Zeitlin reports on Wall Street and big banks.

Contact Matthew Zeitlin at matt.zeitlin@buzzfeed.com.

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