A call between Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Trump from last month underscores the absurdity of the president’s use of a nationals security justification for his tariff hikes on steel and aluminum:

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a testy phone call on May 25 over new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration targeting steel and aluminum imports coming from Canada, including one moment during the conversation in which Trump made an erroneous historical reference, sources familiar with the discussion told CNN.

According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a “national security” issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” referring to the War of 1812.

Trump’s reference to the British capture of Washington was not accurate, but the real problem with this exchange is that he apparently thought this was an appropriate answer to Trudeau’s objections. Events from over two hundred years ago in a war that the U.S. declared on Britain have no bearing on the issues at hand. The fact that there has been no serious threat from our northern neighbors for almost all of the last two centuries shows how preposterous it is to think that relying on Canadian imports jeopardizes American national security. Nicholas Grossman made this point earlier today:

I suspect that Trump and his advisers don’t really consider steel and aluminum imports to be a matter of national security, but they are abusing that loophole simply because it is there and because they can. Unfortunately, by abusing the loophole they are encouraging other governments to do likewise, and by tying the president’s trade preoccupations to national security they are harming U.S. economic and security interests at the same time.