Apple hires pro-Trump lobbyist as it tries to avoid tariffs on iPhones

Apple hires pro-Trump lobbyist as it tries to avoid tariffs on iPhones

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., center, speaks while U.S. President Donald Trump, right, listen during an American Workforce Policy Advisory board meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple has hired one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies in Washington, D.C., to lobby on its behalf as it looks to avoid getting hit with another round of tariffs.

Apple, the computer and phone making juggernaut, has tapped longtime Trump ally Jeffrey Miller to lobby on its behalf, a lobbying registration form shows. The document says Apple is hiring him and his team, which includes others with ties to the Trump administration, for what’s described as “trade issues as they relate to technological goods and services.” It did not disclose the specific nature of Miller’s role as it pertains to various trade hurdles.

Miller’s firm effectively registered to lobby for Apple in October but the disclosure report was signed by him on Thursday, the document said. He was vice finance chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee before he became a top fundraiser for the president’s reelection campaign. In the third quarter he bundled $255,000 for the Trump Victory Committee, a joint fundraising operation between the campaign and the Republican National Committee, a Federal Election Commission record shows.

While it’s unclear how much Miller is being paid for his services, Apple has spent more than $5.5 million on lobbying efforts throughout 2019, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Most of those funds have gone toward paying their own in-house lobbyists but it has tapped four other firms outside the company for help this year.

The move by Apple to turn to Miller comes as it formally requests to have some of its products be excluded from another set of tariffs that may be set in motion by December if the United States and China don’t come to a deal that would end the ongoing trade war. Apple has asked the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to further exempt trade barriers on Apple Watches and iPhone parts, among other materials.

Most of Apple’s products are assembled in China and it has already avoided import tariffs on parts that are used to make the Mac Pro at a factory in Austin, Texas. The decision to not hit Apple’s products with tariffs coincided with Apple CEO Tim Cook’s charm offensive on Trump himself. The president has repeatedly praised Cook and the two have discussed tariffs as a whole.

“I have a lot of respect for Tim Cook, and Tim was talking to me about tariffs,” Trump said in August. “And one of the things, and he made a good case, is that Samsung is their number-one competitor, and Samsung is not paying tariffs because they’re based in South Korea.”

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. Miller himself did not return a request for comment.

As for Miller, Apple represents the latest Big Tech client for the pro-Trump lobbyist. He recently signed a deal with Amazon Web Services, which was involved in a battle with Microsoft for a $10 billion Pentagon defense contract known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI.

Microsoft ended up winning the contract.

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