President Donald Trump on Friday confirmed that he made inflammatory off-the-record remarks about Canada, as he blasted the leak while also saying, “At least Canada knows where I stand!”
The Toronto Star earlier Friday printed remarks Trump made during an interviewwith Bloomberg News the day before, in which he said the United States won’t budge on a trade deal with Canada unless it is “totally on our terms.”
“Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED. Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it,” the president wrote on Twitter. “At least Canada knows where I stand!”
The Toronto Star cited a source in its article on the comments, which Trump said he did not want on the record because they could hinder a deal with Canada.
The Trump administration has been meeting with Canadian officials after the U.S. made a preliminary two-way deal with Mexico earlier this week to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Negotiators for both the countries were battling over agriculture and other issues in Friday’s discussion.
Trump on Thursday told Bloomberg on the record that Canada is “going to make a deal at some point.”
“It may be by Friday or it may be within a period of time, but ultimately they have no choice,” Trump said Thursday in the interview with Bloomberg. “I think we’re close to a deal.”
The president, however, also said: “Off the record: totally on our terms. Totally,” the Star reported.
“Again off the record, they came knocking on our doors last night. ‘Let’s make a deal. Please,’” Trump added.
Trump also reportedly said that if he did say some of his remarks on the record, then they would be “so insulting” that Canada would not agree on a deal.
“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people,” the president said of the Canadian government, according to the Star.
White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters initially told the Star that she was looking into “the authenticity of what was said.”
“If this was said, it was said in an off the record capacity. I understand you guys have obtained it; I’m not sure where you’ve obtained it from,” Walters told the Star. She would not respond to questions from POLITICO about the authenticity of the comments.
“The Canadian and American negotiators continue to work on reaching a win-win deal that benefits both countries,” she said in a later statement.
A Bloomberg spokesperson said: “When we agree that something is off the record, we respect that.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at an event in Oshawa, Ontario, was asked about Trump’s comments, to which he said that Canada is “going to remain constructive, positive, serious and creative about what we do around the negotiating table, in what we do in relation with the United States.”
Trump doubled down on his comments during an event in North Carolina on Friday afternoon.
“I said in the end it’s OK because at least Canada knows how I feel,” Trump said of his off-the-record remarks being published.
Trump again confirmed he made a “strong” statement about Canada off the record and that the term of agreement was “violated.”
“I said something strong, but it’s my belief and they violated it,” Trump said of his comments, but did not specify which outlet he was talking about.
“When you say off the record, it’s not a legal term, but it’s a term of honor,” he added.
The president complained that Canada has “taken advantage of our country for many years” because of their “tremendous trade barriers.”
But he also tried to downplay the stakes of the negotiations.
“If we don’t make a deal with Canada, it’s fine,” Trump said, “but we’ll see how it works out.”
He also offered some affectionate words for the neighbor to the north.
“I love Canada…”I even love their national anthem. It’s called, very appropriately, ‘O Canada.’ Would you like me to sing it?” Trump said. He didn’t follow through on the offer.