At a campaign event in Pawleys Island, S.C., Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called Feb. 19 for a boycott of Apple products until the tech giant agrees to unlock the cellphone of one of the killers in the San Bernardino, Calif., attack. (Reuters)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on U.S. consumers to boycott Apple over its continued refusal to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone held by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters.

"Apple ought to give the security for that phone, okay," Trump told voters during a town hall event in Pawley's Island, S.C. "What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such time as they give that security number. How do you like that? I just thought of it."

The tech company and the Justice Department are locked in an escalating feud over Apple's opposition to helping the government mine data from the suspect's phone, which Apple argues would set a dangerous precedent for cooperation between technology firms and federal agencies.

[Justice Dept. says Apple is refusing to unlock iPhone due to worry about ‘impact on its reputation.’]

"While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a back door into our products," Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook wrote in an open letter published Tuesday. "And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."

The iPhone in question, a 5C model, was given to the male shooter by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health as part of his job. Trump argued Friday that that in itself should quell privacy concerns.

"Boycott Apple. Here's the thing, first of all the phone's not even owned by this young thug that killed all these people; the phone is owned by the government," Trump said.

Mark Berman contributed to this story.