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Donald Trump on Apple encryption battle: 'Who do they think they are?'

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Trump throws a tantrum over Apple's refusal to unlock San Bernardino shooter's cellphone

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The FBI is engaged in a heated battle with Apple, demanding the tech giant unlock the cellphone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. So far, Apple CEO Tim Cook has refused, and he even published an open letter yesterday that called the government's demands to create an OS that circumvents essential security features "chilling."

Cook's letter got the G-Men an unexpected ally in this fight: Donald Trump. "To think that Apple won't allow us to get into her cellphone? Who do they think they are?" he raged during an interview on Fox and Friends. This isn't the first time Trump has attempted to boss around a tech company. In November 2015, he announced that Americans need to "take back the internet" from terrorists. In December 2015, he elaborated on that, calling on Bill Gates to "close up" the internet. Last month, he announced he's "gonna get Apple to start building their darn computers and things in this country."

In his letter, Cook wrote that "the FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government's efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists." He also insisted that "opposing this order is not something we take lightly." He justified Apple's opposition by saying that they "fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."

This defense of freedom and liberty apparently doesn't fly with Trump. In his interview, he made it clear that he sides with the government's justification that building technology to defeat encryption — tech which does not currently exist — would be used only once to "find out what happened [and] why it happened" and if there are "other people involved." Given Trump's ability to shape the conversation during this election, expect other candidates to start weighing in shortly.