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Combative Donald Trump lashes out at Boeing, Apple

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As Donald Trump barreled toward his next test of strength in the Republican nomination fight, the billionaire confronted two top US companies, a popular pope and virtually anyone else in his way.

It was just another day on the campaign trail for the Republican front-runner.

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The real estate mogul's most dramatic move Friday was to call for a boycott of Apple, following the company's refusal to cooperate with a judge's order to assist law enforcement in unlocking the iPhone of a California suspect in the San Bernardino shooting rampage that killed 14 people in December.

"Boycott Apple until they give up the information," he said at a rally in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. "The phone is owned by the government."

Trump singled out Apple chief executive Tim Cook, saying he's "looking to do a big number, probably to show how liberal he is." Trump later tweeted that he'd stop using his iPhone -- and only use a Samsung device -- until Apple cooperates with authorities.


His remarks came on the final full day of campaigning ahead of two key presidential contests that will shape the tone and duration of the Republican and Democratic races. The six remaining Republicans face off Saturday in South Carolina's primary, while Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will compete three time zones to the west in the Nevada caucuses.

A senior Apple executive told Reuters that Trump's attack put the tech giant in a line with "other good people he has criticised".

Boeing's turn

At an earlier stop, Trump suggested that one of the state's top employers could lose jobs if he isn't elected president because, he claimed, no one else will be as good a negotiator with the Chinese.

"Boeing is building massive plants in China," he said at a rally in Myrtle Beach. "You have a beautiful plant. Be careful because when they cut the value of their currency, in two years after their plants are built, and you find out you're losing -- not going to happen if Trump is president, that I can tell you - -but be careful."

Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner assembly plant came on line in 2011 in North Charleston and employs about 8000 people in the region, part of a manufacturing renaissance the state has enjoyed - in part because of its mostly non-unionised workforce.

Boeing doesn't build jetliners outside of the US, although it unveiled its largest industrial investment in China last year: a new plant to finish work on planes before they are delivered to local carriers. "Boeing is committed to South Carolina, our workforce and the local community. We have invested more than $US2 billion in the state since 2009,'' Elizabeth Merida, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Trump, who holds a commanding lead in South Carolina polls, also went after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, his nearest rival, for being "the biggest liar I have ever seen," and took credit for bringing Senator Marco Rubio of Florida into the fight.

The latest Trump antics came after the New York real estate billionaire a rare criticism of a White House candidate by a pope.

Condemning Trump's hardline immigration agenda, Pope Francis singled out the New York real-estate developer and suggested that he "is not Christian" because of statements he's made about building a wall on the Mexico border. Trump responded by calling the pope's actions "disgraceful."

At a CNN town hall held hours later in Columbia, South Carolina, Trump softened his tone."I like his personality," he said of the pope. "I like what he represents. And I certainly have respect for the position."

Known for its beaches, boiled peanuts and barbecue, South Carolina has a reputation for picking winners on the Republican side. It's also the first test for candidates in a diverse state and in the solidly Republican southern US, so its results could be predictive ahead of contests in March when southern states will host a large proportion of the primaries and caucuses.

A Trump win in South Carolina, a state known for dirty politics and late decisions by primary voters, would be a significant boost for his prospects of winning his party's nomination.

A Bloomberg Politics poll of likely Republican voters in South Carolina released Wednesday showed Trump leading the field with support from 36 per cent, followed by Cruz at 17 per cent, Rubio at 15 per cent and Bush at 13 per cent.