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White House aides have admitted that positive phone calls the president claimed he had had with China at last week’s G7 summit “didn’t happen the way he said they did”, according to a report from CNN.
The concession comes after Mr Trump told reporters that “China called last night our top trade people and said, ‘Let’s get back to the table'.
“They have been hurt very badly but they understand this is the right thing to do and I have great respect for it,” the president continued. “This is a very positive development for the world. I think we are going to have a deal.”
China’s foreign ministry responded with confusion, prompting suspicions that Mr Trump may have fabricated the phone call to create the illusion that his botched dealings with China were actually going well.
“Regarding the phone call in the weekend, I am not aware of that,” Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters last week. “I can tell you clearly that I haven’t heard of such a thing.”
Now, two officials have told CNN that Mr Trump “was eager to project optimism that might boost markets, and conflated comments from China’s vice premier with direct communication from the Chinese”.
The sources say the language out of the White House is meant to make up for failed promises including the delay on the president's proposed border wall, which he is reportedly directing to be built illegally in order to satisfy supporters, as well as quelling fears over a possible recession.
His trade war with China, now running for “months longer than expected”, is yet another hindrance to his re-election efforts. Sources suggest the invented phone call is related to his attempt for an accomplishment to prop up his 2020 campaign.