After the Washington Post obtained a recording in which President Donald Trump bragged to donors about making up trade facts during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Americans expressed concerns about Trump's demonstrated tendency to lie alongside worries about how he will handle less friendly heads of state, such as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he is set to meet with sometime in May.
As Trump wings it with one of the United States’ closest allies, absent of the facts on a central issue, how will he handle the North Korean dictator in two months time? https://t.co/n6YwI8sA1o
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 15, 2018
Other leaders now know that @realDonaldTrump makes stuff up, like he did with Justin Trudeau. That harms US credibility.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 15, 2018
The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that the president insisted the United States has a trade deficit with Canada, despite not knowing either way. According to the newspaper, during a private fundraising speech, the president said:
Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin. He said, "No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please." ...Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in—"Donald, we have no trade deficit." He's very proud because everybody else, you know, we're getting killed. ...So, he's proud. I said, "Wrong, Justin, you do." I didn’t even know. ...I had no idea. I just said, "You're wrong." You know why? Because we're so stupid. ...And I thought they were smart. I said, "You're wrong, Justin." He said, "Nope, we have no trade deficit." I said, "Well, in that case, I feel differently," I said, "but I don't believe it." I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, "Check, because I can't believe it." ..."Well, sir, you're actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn't include energy and timber. … And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year." It's incredible.
As the Post noted, the Office of the United States Trade Representative says, according to the most recent data available: "U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totaled an estimated $627.8 billion in 2016. Exports were $320.1 billion; imports were $307.6 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $12.5 billion in 2016."
In a series of tweets, Toronto Star Washington correspondent Daniel Dale broke down the president's "hugely ridiculous" tale—noting that "there is an entire genre of invented Trump story that involves him being proven right about something by an unnamed individual. In this case, it's the aide."
So final summary: 1) The president is bragging that he made stuff up with a foreign leader; 2) He is claiming his made-up thing was then magically proven correct; 3) His explanation for why he was actually correct is fictional; 4) He’s still currently incorrect.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 15, 2018
Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to stand by his initial claims:
We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive). P.M. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn’t like saying that Canada has a Surplus vs. the U.S.(negotiating), but they do...they almost all do...and that’s how I know!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2018
Some users quickly responded with screenshots of the U.S. Trade Representative's webpage for the nation's trade with Canada: