Apple CEO Tim Cook has apparently been sharpening his political skills.
Politico reported that Cook had dinner Thursday night with President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, whom Trump appointed as a White House special advisor, at a posh Washington restaurant. Former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for the environment, policy and social initiatives, also reportedly attended the meal.
On Friday, Cook met with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who tweeted out a picture he took with Apple’s chief. The two men have a long history together.
“During today’s meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook, we discussed ways to grow the economy and our tech industry, as well as his recent visit with me in Utah,” Hatch wrote in a statement emailed to USA TODAY. “Given the issues I work on as chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, it’s especially useful to listen to innovators like Tim.”
Utah has been able to attract tech talent thanks to low taxes, affordable housing, and the proximity to two major colleges, the University of Utah in Salt Lake and BYU in Provo.
Cook joined Hatch this past fall as the headliner on a Utah Tech Tour. The Senator sided with Apple during the encryption debate over the San Bernardino massacre where 14 people were killed, after the FBI tried to get access to the shooter’s iPhone.
During an onstage appearance with Hatch, Cook said that “I realized that in some cases some people have tried to make (encryption) out to be bad. Encryption is inherently great and we would not be a safe society without it.”
Cook was also among the high-profile tech CEOs that met then President-elect Trump at Trump Tower in December. Like many tech leaders, Cook is dealing with a president whose candidacy he opposed and who has threatened moves that could throw a wrench into tech’s highly global business, from import taxes to more restrictive immigration policies.
In comments made to employees, Cook explained his participation in the Trump Tower meeting as a way to get Apple’s message across.
“Personally, I’ve never found being on the sideline a successful place to be. The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena. So whether it’s in this country, or the European Union, or in China or South America, we engage.”
Cook added that “we engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it’s a debate of ideas.”
Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the substance of Cook’s recent meetings.
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