21 seconds of silence: Trudeau speechless over Trump on Floyd protests

The usually quick replying prime minister took nearly half a minute to respond to a question on the US president's handling of US protests

Trudeau takes long awkward pause before responding to question about Trump

Trudeau takes long awkward pause before responding to question about Trump
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There were 21 seconds of silence after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about US President Donald Trump and the use of tear gas against protesters to clear the way for a photo opportunity.

The usually quick replying prime minister seemed lost for words when asked about Mr Trump calling for military action against protesters and the use of tear gas for a photo opportunity.

Mr Trudeau has long been careful not to criticise Mr Trump publicly – Canada relies on the US for 76 per cent of its exports and the countries are close neighbours.

After nearly half a minute in which the prime minister appeared several times to be about to address the question only to pause again, he responded without mentioning the US president’s name.

“We all watch in horror and consternation at what is going on the United States,” he said. “It is time to pull people together.”

Although he avoided speaking directly to Mr Trump, the comments come after the US president has been accused by rivals and pundits of inflaming the already tense situation, using divisive language and threatening to deploy the military to quell the marches taking place across the country.

Just over a week after African American man George Floyd was killed in police custody after being detained by white officers, the mass protests up and down the US don’t appear to be subsiding. As well as many peaceful marches – some joined by local officials, politicians and police captains – there have also been running battles with officers, looting, burning and teargas.

Police violently broke up a peaceful and legal protest by several thousand people in Lafayette Park across from the White House ahead of a speech in the Rose Garden by Trump on Monday.

Afterward, Mr Trump strolled out of the White House gates and walked across the cleared Lafayette Park to make a surprise visit to St John’s Church. Mr Trump, standing alone in front of cameras, raised a Bible. He didn’t mention Floyd, the church or the peaceful protesters that police had just cleared away.

In the same question Trudeau was also asked what message he is sending if he didn’t comment on Mr Trump’s actions.

“Clearly, Trudeau was not expecting this pointed question. I think he was considering whether to respond at all, which could have been taken to mean he was not going to criticize Trump,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

“His comments are a criticism of Trump without naming Trump,” he said.

Mr Wiseman said Mr Trudeau was wise not to mention Mr Trump directly.

“Trudeau is smart enough to know that. Trump has shown that he can blow a fuse even if he isn’t mentioned directly, as happened at the end of the G7,” Mr Wiseman said.

Mr Trump vowed to make Canada pay after Mr Trudeau said he wouldn’t be bullied in trade talks at the conclusion of the G7 meeting in Quebec in 2018. Mr Trump called Mr Trudeau “weak” and “dishonest.” He threatened tariffs on cars and slapped them on steel.