President Trump seems to have fumbled on historical accuracy during a fraught phone call about trade with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late last month, reportedly asking his northern counterpart, “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”
CNN reports that sources familiar with the conversation said Trump was responding to Trudeau’s query over how trade tariffs could be justified as a “national security” issue. Canadian broadcaster CBC also confirmed that the conversation took place.
But Trump’s quip, an apparent reference to the War of 1812, was erroneous; it was in fact the British who set the residence and other sites ablaze in 1814, in retaliation for an American attack on York, Ontario, which at the time was a British colony. Canada did not become a nation until 1867.
The May 25 phone call reportedly took on a contentious tone as the two North American leaders discussed Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the E.U. The administration premised the tariffs on a little-used trade statute pertaining to threats to national security.
Canada announced plans to impose reciprocal duties on $12.8 billion worth of U.S. products. “That Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States is inconceivable,” Trudeau said, according to the Associated Press.
The White House declined to comment, according to CNN.