Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

White House to Justin Trudeau: Sorry, not sorry

June 12, 2018 at 3:47 PM

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After President Trump withdrew from the G-7 joint statement, his advisers blamed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while lawmakers and Democrats criticized Trump's decision. (Jenny Starrs /The Washington Post)

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro apologized, sort of, to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, two days after saying there is a “special place in hell” for the leader of the United States' neighbor.

“In conveying that message, I used language that was inappropriate,” Navarro said at a Wall Street Journal event.

Note that Navarro expressed regret only for the language, not the message, which is that Trudeau had better show President Trump more deference in the future. For the message, the White House is most definitely not sorry.

Addressing the feud between his administration and Canada, Trump said at a news conference Tuesday in Singapore that Trudeau had “learned” his lesson.

Navarro's original statement, on “Fox News Sunday,” followed a pair of tweets in which Trump raged about comments Trudeau made at a news conference after a summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations. Trudeau spoke in mostly favorable terms about Trump but said that Canadians “will not be pushed around” and added that the Trump administration's national security justification for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada is “kind of insulting.”

Trump — by then in the air, bound for Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — vented on Twitter.

Navarro told Fox News that “there's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door. And that’s what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That's what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did. And that comes right from Air Force One.”

The White House's chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, similarly told CNN on Sunday that Trudeau “really kind of stabbed us in the back.”

The backstabbing charge seems over the top, but the White House's contention is that Trudeau ought to have capped the G-7 summit by talking about Trump and the U.S.-Canada relationship in nothing but positive terms.

“He was polarizing,” Kudlow said on CNN.

In Singapore on Tuesday, Trump was firmly unapologetic.

“I have a good relationship with Justin Trudeau, I really did — other than he had a news conference that he had because he assumed I was in an airplane and I wasn't watching,” the president said. “He learned. That's going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada. He learned. You can't do that. You can't do that.”

Navarro might be sorry for his word choice, but the White House's sentiment stands.

Callum Borchers covered the intersection of politics and media. He left The Washington Post in June 2018. He joined The Post in 2015 from the Boston Globe, where his beats included national politics, technology and the business of sports. He is a former editor of Citizen's News in Naugatuck, Conn.

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