2018-06-06 22:59:03 UTC
(CNN) President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a
testy phone call on May 25 over new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration
targeting steel and aluminum imports coming from Canada, including one moment
during the conversation in which Trump made an erroneous historical reference,
sources familiar with the discussion told CNN.
According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the
tariffs as a "national security" issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau,
"Didn't you guys burn down the White House?" referring to the War of 1812.
The problem with Trump's comments to Trudeau is that British troops burned down
the White House during the War of 1812. Historians note the British attack on
Washington was in retaliation for the American attack on York, Ontario, in
territory that eventually became Canada, which was then a British colony.
When asked if the comment was received as a joke, one source on the call said:
"To the degree one can ever take what is said as a joke. The impact on Canada
and ultimately on workers in the US won't be a laughing matter."
The White House declined to comment and the National Security Council did not
immediately return a CNN request for comment.
Asked about the state of US-Canada relations, National Economic Council Director
Larry Kudlow acknowledged some short-term tensions, but said he believes
relations between the two countries remain "very good."
"I have no doubt that the United States and Canada will remain firm friends and
allies whatever short-term disagreements may occur," Kudlow said.
During the Burning of Washington, on August 24, 1814, first lady Dolley Madison
famously rescued a portrait of George Washington before fleeing the White House.
Trudeau has publicly denounced the "national security" justification for the new
"The idea that we are somehow a national security threat to the United States
is, quite frankly, insulting and unacceptable," Trudeau told NBC's Meet the
Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland questioned the Trump
administration's move on CNN.
"And I would just say to all of Canada's American friends -- and there are so
many -- seriously? Do you really believe that Canada, that your NATO allies,
represent a national security threat to you?" Freeland asked on CNN's "State of
Freeland met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker Monday
to relay Canada's concerns regarding the tariffs, a Corker spokeswoman told CNN.
Corker, whose state of Tennessee is home to foreign and domestic auto plants,
questioned Trump's national security justification in a statement last week.
"There is no reason to use this provision to consider imposing tariffs on the
automobile industry, and this appears to be either an attempt to affect domestic
politics ahead of the election or for some other transactional purpose regarding
ongoing trade discussions. This is a dangerous course and should be abandoned
immediately," Corker said in the statement.
Trump defended his decision on tariffs on Canada and other US allies in a tweet
over the weekend.