Tags: donald trump | nuclear arsenal | security leaders

NBC News: Trump Called for Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Weapons

NBC News: Trump Called for Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Weapons
President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 October 2017 09:00 AM

President Donald Trump told the nation's highest ranking security leaders this past summer that he wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal by nearly 10 times, according to a new report Wednesday.

Three officials who were in the room during the meeting told NBC News that the president's comments came after he viewed a briefing slide charting the reduction of the nation's nuclear weapons since the late 1960s.

According to the officials, Trump said he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the United States has approximately 4,000 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile.

Trump's advisers at the July 20 meeting included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were reportedly surprised by Trump's comment. Officials told Trump that there are legal and practical reasons why the nations' nuclear weapons stockpile could not be increased, NBC sources said, later telling the network's reporting team that no expansion is planned.

Further, NBC reported on Wednesday, it was after that meeting officials heard Tillerson say Trump is a "moron," a comment Tillerson and the White House has denied making.

The story was revealed as the Trump administration is standing off against North Korea's nuclear ambitions and Iran, over the 2015 nuclear deal, the report said.

Other officials at the meeting said they did not take Trump's wish for more weapons to be an instruction to build the numbers. Further, they said Trump not only asked about more nuclear weapons, but also about increasing U.S. troops and military equipment.

Trump has often called for increased military spending, and on the day after the July 20 meeting he signed an executive order directing a review about whether the country's military suppliers could keep the military stocked during war time.

If the United States were to increase its nuclear arsenal, that could break with years of doctrine and violate international disarmament treaties that have been signed over the years by every president since the late Ronald Reagan.

"If [Trump] were to increase the numbers, the Russians would match him, and the Chinese" would ramp up their nuclear ambitions, Joe Cirincione, a nuclear expert and MSNBC contributor. "There hasn't been a military mission that's required a nuclear weapon in 71 years."

The July 20 meeting followed one held the day before at the White House Situation Room, when Trump asked military leaders to fire the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Two people familiar with the discussion said the meeting was unproductive to the point that advisers decided to continue the talks the next day at the Pentagon with a smaller group.

"It wasn't just the number of people. It was the idea of focus," a source told NBC, explaining that the thinking was that "maybe we need to slow down a little and explain the whole world."

Also at the meeting were Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, Undersecretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, then-chief strategist Stephen Bannon, then-Chief of Staff, Jared Kushner, then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and Keith Schiller, director of Oval Office Operations at the time, NBC reports.

A White House officials told NBC the nuclear arsenal was not the meeting's primary topic, and Pentagon spokesperson Dana White commented that Defense Secretary James Mattis "has many closed sessions with the president and his cabinet members. Those conversations are privileged."

When the meeting occurred, however, White told reporters it "covered the planet," and that the president's advisers "went around the world," to discuss challenges and opportunities for the country.

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President Donald Trump told the nation's highest ranking security leaders this past summer that he wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal by nearly 10 times, according to a new report Wednesday.
donald trump, nuclear arsenal, security leaders
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2017-00-11
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 09:00 AM
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