White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday afternoon cited Apple’s $1 billion investment in US manufacturing as a sign of “optimism” around President Trump’s domestic economic agenda. “The president is also glad to see businesses once again making significant investments in America,” Spicer said at the daily press briefing.
“From Intel to General Motors to Walmart to Apple — who specifically just announced earlier this month they will start a $1 billion fund to promote advanced manufacturing jobs here in the United States. And it’s not just the president’s domestic economic policies that are generating optimism,” he said. Corning Glass, one of Apple’s US-based suppliers, was announced on Friday as the first recipient of funds from the program. It will be awarded $200 million.
Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the Advanced Manufacturing Fund in early May during an appearance on CNBC’s Mad Money; he made no mention of it being influenced by or created as a result of President Trump’s policies, however. Apple says the $1 billion program “is designed to foster innovative production and highly skilled jobs that will help lay the foundation for a new era of technology-driven manufacturing in the US.” The company has recently been doing more to promote its record of job creation in the United States.
Apple has never said the fund was shaped by Trump’s agenda
When questioned on Apple’s relationship with Trump, Cook at one point mentioned his company’s strong disapproval of Trump’s immigration orders, which have been challenged by US courts. “With each administration, in every country in the world, there are things [where] you disagree and things [where] you agree. And you look to find common ground and try to influence the things you don't. If you don't show up, I think that's the worst scenario. Because then you're quiet and this doesn't do your cause any good, or your point of view any good.” During the interview, Cook again expressed hope that the government will soon enact sweeping tax policy reforms. The $1 billion fund could be one way for Apple to win leverage in Washington as Trump works to advance his proposals.
Spicer highlighted Apple’s announcement just moments after Tom Bossert, Trump’s Homeland Security advisor, began the press briefing with an update on the massive WannaCry ransomware attack that has sprung up around the world. That attack utilizes an exploit believed to have been developed by the NSA. Microsoft has since voiced its frustration with governments for “stockpiling” vulnerabilities for their own interests.
Many have viewed the WannaCry catastrophe as evidence that Apple made the right decision when the company found itself at odds with the FBI and Obama administration over encryption last year. At the time, Tim Cook argued that helping law enforcement break the security protections of iOS “could expose people to incredible vulnerabilities.” The encryption debate could potentially be revived under President Trump’s administration. “This is not something that we would create. This would be bad for America,” Cook said. Donald Trump, then still a candidate, encouraged a boycott of Apple products until the company complied with assisting the FBI.
The Verge has reached out to Apple for comment on whether the Advanced Manufacturing Fund is an outcome of Trump’s policies, as Spicer suggested. The president has been criticized for taking credit for economic deals first announced during Barack Obama’s presidency; companies like Intel have also been less than honest in their publicity and messaging.