How a CBC producer caught Trudeau on a hot mic gossiping about Trump | CBC Radio

You would think by now U.S. President Donald Trump would be used to people talking behind his back.

But on Wednesday, in a press conference at the NATO summit in London, Trump scornfully called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "two-faced."

The comments came after footage emerged of the prime minister chatting with other world leaders at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. In the clip, Trudeau appears to be discussing Trump's behaviour and his "40-minute press conference."

The viral moment likely wouldn't have surfaced at all without Chris Rands, the CBC's parliamentary producer in Ottawa. He spotted the exchange while he was scrolling through video footage.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke to Rands about the moment. Here is part of their conversation.

This rather candid footage of Justin Trudeau chit-chatting at Buckingham Palace has gone around the world at this point, and you were the one who discovered it. How did you come across it? 

One of my jobs as a field producer is to put pictures to voice or pictures to the story.

I was looking for footage and there was a reception at Buckingham Palace that seemed to be happening live, or almost live, around 3:10 p.m. [Tuesday] afternoon. 

I was scrolling through, and there was a beautiful little grouping of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President of France Emmanuel Macron, the prime minister of Canada, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte ... and a little later, Princess Anne.

It was this great little grouping and I thought, wait a sec, I see the prime minister's face on the camera. He's animated. He's gesticulating. And I put on my headphones, and I can hear his voice.

PM Justin Trudeau, France's Emmanuel Macron, UK PM Boris Johnson and other VIPs shared a few words at a Buckingham Palace reception Tuesday - and seemed to be talking about U.S. President Donald Trump's lengthy impromptu press conferences earlier in the day. 0:25

And is that something that you've noticed before? Because you've watched a lot of footage and seen a lot of Mr. Trudeau. Can you tell when he's excited about something?

Yes, I've spent enough time looking at footage of the prime minister — and those before him — that I'm used to his mannerisms.

He was on and he was talking about something. But he was talking about something in a way that was sort of like, "You can't believe it!" Or, you know, "Look at this!" Or, "Did you see this guy?"

It was that type of conversation, [like] around a pint at the local sports club.

Rands says the body language of Trudeau and those around him caught his attention and made him check the tape. (Yui Mok/The Associated Press)

It didn't look like a bunch of statesmen standing around talking about NATO. This was something else. So you zoomed in on the sound. Were you surprised you could actually make out what they were saying?

Well, yeah. Because the one camera that was capturing all this had a really good microphone.

To capture sound at that distance, they're very directional. They sort of point in one way.

So you could hear the prime minister because he was facing the microphone. The other leaders had their faces away or to the side, so their voices were sort of drifting off somewhere.

I could hear enough to know to sort of pick out what he was saying and discovered that it seemed to be about his time with President Trump.

Do you know what the context was? What had happened? What was he referring to?

I believe what he had been referring to was there were two photo opportunities, which stretched into press conferences.

Usually, photo opportunities where the two leaders, you know, do the handshake, "Hi, it's nice to meet you" ... they're about two minutes in length.

The president, in his desires, extended one to about 30 minutes, roughly, with Prime Minister Trudeau, and I think into the 40-minute range with the president of France.

That's just from my memory, but they were long, they were detailed and, in the case of the French president, quite combative.

In reference to the candid moment caught on tape, U.S. President Donald Trump has called Trudeau 'two-faced.' (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

And then there is another remark, which is about the jaws dropped on the aides around President Trump. This is something Mr. Trudeau said — another animated statement. What is he referring to there? 

The word that we could hear was the word "Doral."

I believe that is the Trump golf resort in greater Miami, which was supposed to host the G7 summit next year.

I believe during the extended availability between Mr. Trump and the prime minister, he mentioned that it was going to be held at Camp David. And that seemed to be news. I hadn't heard that.

And that's what I believe Prime Minister Trudeau is describing — that the Trump aides, I believe he's saying, their jaws dropped to the floor when the president, in his wisdom, decided to announce during the availability that the G7 was going to be held at Camp David.

U.S. President Donald Trump says PM Justin Trudeau ridiculed him last evening because he was upset that Trump called him out over low NATO spending. 0:41

And it's interesting that after that candid moment, another one that gets captured without Mr. Trump, in this case, knowing what he is saying. He is leaving the room and he says, "That was funny when I said that the guy's two-faced, you know that." And referring to Mr. Trudeau, I guess, that he is "that guy." So there were a lot of candid moments that got captured yesterday.

I flash back to the TV series The West Wing and there was an episode where Jed Bartlet is doing a series of TV interviews and he just let something slip while the camera's on but he's not on air yet.

It becomes a big thing. And at the end, his press secretary turns to him and said, "You knew what you were doing, didn't you, sir?"

He smiled.

You know, sometimes people let something slip at the end because they're trying to correct something or they're trying to do something. It's quite a game, politics at this level.


Written by Jeanne Armstrong and John McGill. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.