Trump owns up to making things up

US President Donald Trump talks to journalists during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Michael Probst, AP, file)
US President Donald Trump talks to journalists during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Michael Probst, AP, file)

Washington - US President Donald Trump has owned up to making things up.

For a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump was by his own admission unprepared - deficient in the fundamentals of the Canada-US trade relationship that he'd been railing about since the campaign.

FACT CHECK: Trump sees himself outperforming history

He insisted to Trudeau that the US was running a trade deficit with Canada, a statement contradicted by US government statistics. He was winging it, he confided to donors at a private Missouri political fundraiser on Wednesday night.

"I didn't even know," he said. "I had no idea."

Others might be mortified at being caught short. Not this president.

Dodgy statements

For Trump the showman, the episode illustrated his skill at improvisation. Still, it was a rare admission that he will say things without knowing if they are true.

Trump's impulse to replace fact with fiction has defined him as a politician and as a businessman before that.

Depositions reviewed by AP from his litigious years in real estate show a history of dodgy statements about his property and wealth.

Asked once about overstating the number of units sold in a Las Vegas tower, he said he didn't intend his answer to be taken literally.

Trump's years of questioning President Barack Obama's citizenship showed a willingness to perpetuate myth that was seen again early in his presidential campaign, when he insisted against all evidence that Muslims took to the streets in New Jersey to celebrate the 2001 terrorist attack across the river in Manhattan.

In office, he routinely misuses numbers - trade statistics among them - and recounts events to suit his agenda even if the facts don't fit.

Of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Florida, he said: "If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn't have happened, or certainly not to the extent it did," a statement belied by the fact that the club had an armed guard on duty who immediately exchanged fire with the gunman.

In leaked audio of the Missouri fundraiser, first reported by The Washington Post, Trump says that in his meeting with Trudeau, he thought the US must be running a trade deficit with Canada because the Canadians have been smart about trade and "we're so stupid".

"Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in - 'Donald, we have no trade deficit.'" Trump recounted. "He's very proud because everybody else, you know, we're getting killed."

"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."

Deficit, surplus

Trump went on to say that his position was ultimately vindicated when he had US and Canadian aides take a closer look at trade between the two countries.

That conclusion is not supported by the numbers.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday insisted Trump was right, saying: "Well the president was accurate, because there is a trade deficit and that was the point he was making, is that he didn't have to look at the specific figures, because he knew that there was a trade deficit."

Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesperson Adam Austin offered this counter: "According to their own statistics, the US runs a trade surplus with Canada."

Trump mischaracterises the trade balance by considering only trade in goods and ignoring services. On goods, the US ran a deficit of $17.6bn with Canada in 2017. That was offset by a surplus in trade in services.

Overall, the US Census Bureau reports a US trade surplus of $2.8bn in 2017 with Canada.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
As a child or as an adult, have you ever been a victim of bullying?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, at school
52% - 373 votes
Yes, at work
16% - 115 votes
No, I've never experienced this
32% - 228 votes
Vote
USD/ZAR
14.31
(0.0)
GBP/ZAR
19.81
(0.0)
EUR/ZAR
17.15
(0.0)
AUD/ZAR
11.07
(0.0)
JPY/ZAR
0.13
(0.0)
Gold
1,776.67
(0.0)
Silver
25.97
(0.0)
Platinum
1,203.79
(0.0)
Brent Crude
66.77
(-0.3)
Palladium
2,781.00
(0.0)
All Share
68,699
(+1.3)
Top 40
62,898
(+1.3)
Financial 15
12,446
(+0.8)
Industrial 25
89,364
(+0.8)
Resource 10
70,350
(+2.2)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo