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Apple’s Tim Cook dances around question over what he promised Trump, if anything

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OK, iPhone sales rose in the third quarter — and Apple’s shares are trading at an all-time high after its earnings report Tuesday.

But hold the Champagne: Tim Cook still had to answer a couple of tough questions during the earnings call, such as whether he really told President Trump that Apple is going to build three “beautiful” manufacturing plants in the United States.

The short answer? There was no short answer.

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Last week, Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that Cook had “promised” him three U.S. plants in private, and that it would be “big, big, big.” Not surprisingly, Apple did not comment.

Are the president and Cook that close? Here’s our answer: During his presidential campaign, Trump had said he wanted Apple to “build their damn computers in this country instead of other countries,” and also urged people to boycott Apple products because the company refused to cooperate with the FBI, which wanted the company’s help in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

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So Tuesday, Cook gave a long-winded response to whether he promised Trump those plants.

“We’ve created 2 million jobs in the U.S., and we’re incredibly proud of that,” he said, according to a transcript of the the call. “We do view that we have a responsibility in the U.S. to increase economic activity… including increasing jobs, because Apple could only have been created here.”

Apple’s CEO went on to tout what else the Silicon Valley company is doing to boost the American economy. Cook said Apple last year bought “about $50 billion worth of goods and services from U.S.-based suppliers — some significant portion of those are manufacturing-related, and so we’ve asked ourselves what we can do to increase this.”

In addition, Cook mentioned Apple’s efforts in the education arena, including its push to train more developers.

“Just a couple months ago, we announced a new curriculum that’s focused on community colleges, junior colleges, and technical colleges for kids that did not have coding in their elementary and high school years,” he said.

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And he mentioned the $1 billion investment in U.S.-based advanced manufacturing Apple announced in May.

“We’ve already deployed $200 million of that. The first recipient is Corning in Kentucky, and they’ll be using that money to expand the plant to make very innovative glass,” Cook said. “I think there’s probably several plants that can benefit from having some investment to grow or expand or even maybe set up shop in the U.S. for the first time.”

Still, none of that is a yes to what Trump said Cook promised him. But there’s also this.

“We have about two-thirds of our total employee base in the U.S., despite only a third of our revenues being here, and so we some have things we’ll say about that later in the year,” Cook said.

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks as President Donald Trump listens during an American Technology Council roundtable in the State Dinning Room of the White House on June 19, 2017, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Tags: Apple, Donald Trump, Jobs, Manufacturing, Tim Cook

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