During Thursday’s White House news briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended a blatant lie President Trump told during a speech to donors about the United States’ trade relationship with Canada.
“The [United States Trade Representative] says we have a trade surplus with Canada, the president says we don’t — how do you reconcile those two things?” a reporter asked Sanders.
Instead of simply acknowledging that Trump was wrong, Sanders twisted reality in at attempt to defend him.
“For one, they are not taking into account some of the additional things, like energy and timber that would not be included in those numbers, and once you include those, it shows that there actually is a deficit,” Sanders said.
Another reporter followed up, asking Sanders whether there “are any other economic indicators that the White House disagrees with that come from the federal government.”
Sanders again defended Trump’s lie, saying that “there are plenty of things, once you take into the full account of all of the trade between the two countries, that show that there is actually a deficit between those two.”
The US does not currently have a trade deficit with Canada. As the Washington Post details, the US only has a trade deficit with Canada when trade in services isn’t factored in. But there’s no good reason to not account for the $25 billion trade surplus the United States has with Canada with regard to telecommunications, accounting and legal services, and tourism.
In a tweet posted after the briefing concluded, Sanders indicated that her defense of Trump in fact hinged on excluding services from the equation.
In the briefing I said I would provide the trade deficit number we have with Canada. In 2017 we had a $17.58 B trade deficit. In January 2018 we had a$3.63 B trade deficit. Both reflect trade in goods. Which is exactly what @POTUS referenced. https://t.co/PHm7hXdszD
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 15, 2018
But services are a huge part of the American economy. In fact, as the World Trade Organization puts it, trade in services is the “most dynamic segment in world trade, growing more quickly than trade in goods.” The only reason Sanders would pretend they don’t exist is to try and defend the president.
Sanders’ comments about trade weren’t the only time she defended Trump’s lies during Thursday’s briefing. The last question the press secretary fielded was about another fabrication Trump offered during his speech to donors on Wednesday — one about how the Japanese drop bowling balls on American cars as part of a convoluted effort to keep them off the Japanese market.
There is no evidence that any such “bowling ball test” actually exists. But instead of just acknowledging as much, Sanders said Trump’s comment “illustrates the creative ways some countries are able to keep American goods out of their markets.”
Sanders closes by claiming that Trump's made-up story about the Japanese dropping bowling balls on cars was a joke.
"Obviously he's joking about this particular test but it illustrates the creative ways some countries are able to keep American goods out of their markets." pic.twitter.com/nfz0UMXigt
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 15, 2018
Defending the president’s absurdities has become part of the press secretary’s duties during the Trump era. The precedent was established during the Trump administration’s very first briefing, when then-press secretary Sean Spicer declared war on the press and reality itself by defending Trump’s easily debunked lies about the size of his inauguration crowd.
The Trump White House refuses to acknowledge that the president is even capable of mistakes. Perhaps most infamously, after Trump posted a tweet with an obvious typo last May, Spicer suggested that the string of letters he tweeted — “Covfefe” — was actually some sort of secret message to his followers.
“The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant,” Spicer said.
More recently, Sanders similarly defended Trump’s retweet of an inflammatory, fake video purportedly showing Muslims in the U.K. committing various crimes. “Look, I’m not talking about the nature of the video. I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing,” she told reporters at the time. She also defended another of the president’s tweets in which he seemed to suggest that a female Democratic senator was willing to perform sexual acts for campaign donations. Sanders accused a reporter who asked her about it of having their mind “in the gutter.”
The press secretary has also repeatedly used the White House pulpit to attack journalists who dare ask her tough questions about Trump’s distortions and undignified attacks against his perceived enemies.
“I think that the premise of your question is completely ridiculous and shows the lack of knowledge that you have on this process,” she told one reporter who had asked how the public was supposed to “trust” the president when his messages on Twitter are so obviously mixed.