World News

Top Trump Adviser Apologizes for Attack on Trudeau

Posted June 12, 2018 5:50 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Peter Navarro, one of President Donald Trump’s top trade advisers, said on Tuesday that it was a mistake to suggest that “there is a special place in hell” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, offering a rare apology from a White House that almost never walks back heated rhetoric.

“In conveying that message, I used language that was inappropriate and basically lost the power of that message,” Navarro said at an event sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. “I own that, that was my mistake, those were my words.”

He said he was trying to send a signal of strength on behalf of the administration, but that his language was inappropriate. In the future, Navarro said, he will stick to discussing serious policy issues and differences.

“If you make a mistake, you should admit it, learn from it, don’t repeat it,” Navarro said.

Asked if he was apologizing, Navarro said, “yeah, absolutely.”

His earlier comments had followed Trump’s own sharp words for Trudeau, whom the president called “dishonest and weak” and accused of making “false statements.”

Trump was angered by Trudeau’s remarks at the end of the Group of 7 gathering on Saturday that Canada would not be bullied by the United States; the president lashed back in a series of tweets aboard Air Force One as he headed to Singapore for a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On Sunday, Navarro, who is Trump’s most hawkish trade adviser, assailed Trudeau for engaging in “bad faith diplomacy” in the wake of the G-7 meeting.

“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,” Navarro said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference,” Navarro said.

While Navarro backed down from his attack, Trump did not, continuing on Tuesday to accuse Trudeau of acting in bad faith and trying to take advantage of the United States.

At a news conference in Singapore, the president said Trudeau only made his comments about not being bullied because he thought Trump was on an airplane and would not hear about them.

“Justin probably didn’t know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions, and I see the television,” Trump said. “And he’s giving a news conference about how he will not be pushed around by the United States. And I say, push him around? We just shook hands. It was very friendly.”

Trump, who has since threatened to impose tariffs on Canada, added: “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 was not the only White House adviser to hit the airwaves on Sunday with a tough message about Trudeau.

Larry Kudlow, head of Trump’s National Economic Council, also called Trudeau’s behavior a “stunt” and a “betrayal” while speaking on CNN on Sunday. He suggested that Trump was trying to project strength ahead of his summit with the North Korean leader.

Navarro’s remarks strained the already tense negotiations between the United States and Canada. Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, called them “inappropriate” and warned that ad hominem attacks are not a productive way to conduct international relations.

Navarro, who has frustrated some members of the Trump administration by fanning his protectionist instincts, was also rebuked by Republicans for his coarse language.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said, “I thought he should’ve kept his big mouth shut.”

And Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said that Navarro’s comments were not the words that he would have chosen to characterize the leader of Canada.

“I think that the Judgment Day that separates us from heaven and hell is not dependent on whether you agree with the president,” Short told CNN.