Phil Schiller iPhone 11 keynoteSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • Donald Trump spoke to CNBC's Joe Kernen at Davos in Switzerland.
  • When questioned about Apple, he reiterated his stance that Apple should do more to help the government.
  • He said that Apple has the keys "to so many criminals and criminals' minds."

Speaking to CNBC at Davos in Switzerland, President Donald Trump has reiterated his stance that Apple could and should do more to assist the government when it comes to encryption.

Joe Kernen asked the President what he thought of Apple, to which the President replied:

I like them a lot. I think we should do some encryption. I think we should-- we should start finding some of the bad people out there that we can do with Apple. I think it's very important. Frankly, I've helped them a lot. I've given them waivers, because I want them-- it's a great company, but it made a big difference. Now, you know, they compete against Samsung. Mostly Samsung. I guess that would be their number one competitor. That's from South Korea. It's not fair, because we have a trade deal with South Korea, so Samsung would get the no waiver. And they would-- they would have to pay-- tariffs. So I did waivers, but I want them to help us a little bit. They-- you know, Apple has to help us. And I'm very strong on it. They have the keys to so many criminals and criminal minds, and we can do things. When they had the problem with the-- recently in Florida. I won't go into it, because it's so horrible. CNBC - Transcript

The transcript continues:

JOE KERNEN: Right.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: But they could have given us that information. It would have been very helpful.

JOE KERNEN: Well, we don't need a back door-- way in getting into the wrong hands either. You-- do you--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, no. I understand--

JOE KERNEN: --you--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: --you know what, I understand both sides of the argument.

JOE KERNEN: And this won't--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: But if you're dealing with drug lords--

JOE KERNEN: --this won't hurt your relationship-- with Tim?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: You're dealing with drug lords and you're dealing with terrorists, and if you're dealing with murderers, I don't care. We have to get--

JOE KERNEN: Okay.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: --we have to find out what's going on.

Now, it's unclear as to what "that information" refers to here. Following initial reports that Apple had not been helpful during the Pensacola investigation, Apple hit back with a public statement in which it reported turning over "many gigabytes" of information including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data.

The President later tweeted suggesting that Apple should step up to the plate and unlock phones used by criminals.

Save big with VPN deals from ExpressVPN, PureVPN, Surfshark & more

So it's possible that the President may have instead been referring to the prospect of using a backdoor to bypass iOS encryption. This would fit with his use of the phrase "they have the keys to so many criminals and criminal minds" - it also wouldn't make sense that the President was referring to the information requested by law enforcement during the course of the investigation, because as noted Apple did provide this as requested. In fact, a recently published report revealed that Apple complies with over 90% of US requests for information such as iCloud backups and the like.

Interestingly, when asked if the dispute could hurt his relationship with Apple CEO Tim Cook, the President replied:

You're dealing with drug lords and you're dealing with terrorists, and if you're dealing with murderers, I don't care.

This could highlight that the President might be willing to sour his relationship with Cook and Apple to try and get his way, and could be a further sign that the dispute between Apple and the government over encryption has only just begun.

For a full rundown of Apple, the FBI and the course of this narrative over the last few years, take a look at our comparison of the San Bernardino and Pensacola shootings as we examine the case for and against creating a backdoor to iOS encryption, complete with input from a cybersecurity expert.