Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)

Toronto Star Washington Bureau Chief Daniel Dale is defending reporters at Bloomberg after Donald Trump made off-the-record comments criticizing Canada during ongoing trade negotiations between the two countries and Mexico.

Trump used a Star report on his comments, after they were leaked to Dale, to attack the Bloomberg reporters on Twitter.

According to Dale’s first report on the exchange, Trump made the inflammatory off-the-record comments during a Thursday interview with Bloomberg News’ editor-in-chief and two reporters in the Oval Office.

The Star noted:

[Trump] said, “off the record,” that he is not making any compromises at all with Canada — and that he could not say this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”

“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal ... I can’t kill these people,” Trump said of the Canadian government.

Advertisement

Trump added that he was trying to scare Canadians “into submission” with threats of tariffs on Canadian auto exports, the report added.

Canadian officials confronted the Trump administration about the comments on Friday morning, accusing the U.S. of negotiating in bad faith.

Tellingly, Trump confirmed on Twitter that indirectly he was the anonymous source for Dale’s report—a day after he had attacked the news media over using anonymous sources.

Advertisement

“Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED. Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it. At least Canada knows where I stand!” Trump tweeted on Friday.

Trump said later, “It’s unbelievable what’s happening with the fake news. It’s unbelievable. When you say ‘off the record,’ that’s a very, it’s not a legal term, but it’s a term of honor…This is a first. These are very dishonorable people.”

Advertisement

Trump also tweeted on Friday that he “[s]till can’t believe that Bloomberg violated a firm OFF THE RECORD statement. Will they put out an apology?”

He kept at it early Saturday morning, as the rest of the country’s political (and media) world prepared for the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral.

Advertisement

Then, he threatened to unilaterally kick Canada out of NAFTA.

“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal. If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out,” Trump tweeted. “Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off...

Advertisement

“Remember, NAFTA was one of the WORST Trade Deals ever made. The U.S. lost thousands of businesses and millions of jobs. We were far better off before NAFTA - should never have been signed. Even the Vat Tax was not accounted for. We make new deal or go back to pre-NAFTA!” he added.

Advertisement

All of this prompted Dale to speak out on Saturday in defense of Bloomberg White House reporters Margaret Talev and Jennifer Jacobs.

“I’d said I wasn’t going to say anything about my source for the quotes Trump made off the record to Bloomberg. However, I don’t want to be party to the president’s smearing of excellent, ethical journalists. So I can say this: none of the Bloomberg interviewers was my source,” Dale said in a Twitter thread.

“Trump is calling Jennifer Jacobs, Margaret Talev and their editor liars. They aren’t, and they didn’t violate their ‘off the record’ promise to him. I don’t want to be a party to his attempt to make fellow reporters look deceitful,” he added.

Advertisement

So, if it wasn’t the Bloomberg staff that leaked the comments, who could it have been?