On Wednesday, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough passed on an intriguing piece of gossip: Donald Trump, speaking with a “foreign policy expert,” repeatedly asked “why can’t we use nuclear weapons.”
Scarborough’s claim was thinly sourced. He didn’t reveal the identity of the expert advising Trump or even where he learned the information. Information attributed to anonymous sources is inherently suspect.
But one need not rely on anonymous sources to glean Trump’s views on nuclear weapons. He has broached the subject repeatedly on the campaign trail. Several of his public comments are similar to Scarborough’s account while others are terrifying in their own way.
Trump said he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them
MATTHEWS: Well, why would you — why wouldn’t you just say, “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about nuclear weapons. Presidents don’t talk about use of nuclear weapons”?
TRUMP: The question was asked — we were talking about NATO — which, by the way, I say is obsolete and we pay a dis —
MATTHEWS: But you got hooked into something you shouldn`t have talked about.
TRUMP: I don’t think I — well, someday, maybe.
MATTHEWS: When? Maybe?
TRUMP: Of course. If somebody —
MATTHEWS: Where would we drop — where would we drop a nuclear weapon in the Middle East?
TRUMP: Let me explain. Let me explain.
Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn`t fight back with a nuke?
MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in 45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.
TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?
[MSNBC, March 30, 2016]
Trump said he was open to nuking Europe because it’s a “big place”
TRUMP: Well, I don’t want to take cards off the table. I would never do that. The last person to press that button would be me. Hey, I’m the one that didn’t want to go into Iraq from the beginning. The last person that wants to play the nuclear card believe me is me. But you can never take cards off the table either from a moral stand — from any standpoint and certainly from a negotiating standpoint.
BOLLING: Donald, I understand they are not taking the cards off the table for ISIS or Islamic terror. But when Chris expanded to Europe, what about that?
TRUMP: Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability. Now, our capability is going down rapidly because of what we’re doing. It’s in bad shape. The equipment is not properly maintained. There are all lot of talk about that. And that’s a bad thing not a good thing. The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don’t want to take anything off the table. We have to negotiate. There will be times maybe when we’re going to be in a very deep, very difficult, very horrible negotiation. The last person — I’m not going to take it off the table. And I said it yesterday. And I stay with it.
[Fox News, 3/31/16]
Trump said that “you want to be unpredictable” with nuclear weapons
DICKERSON: They talk about the presidency and who has the finger on the button. The United States has not used nuclear weapons since 1945. When should it?
TRUMP: Well, it is an absolute last stance. And, you know, I use the word unpredictable. You want to be unpredictable.
And somebody recently said — I made a great business deal. And the person on the other side was interviewed by a newspaper. And how did Trump do this? And they said, he`s so unpredictable. And I didn`t know if he meant it positively or negative. It turned out he meant it positively.
Trump reiterated that it was important to be “unpredictable” with nuclear weapons
TRUMP: But I have to say this, there are…
HALPERIN: You’d probably be the last to use nuclear weapons…
HALPERIN: — against ISIS?
TRUMP: — nuclear.
HALPERIN: But you’re — so you would — you would rule in the possibility of using, right, nuclear weapons against ISIS?
TRUMP: Well, I’m never going to rule anything out.
TRUMP: And I wouldn’t want to say — even if I felt it wasn’t going – – I wouldn’t want to tell you that…
TRUMP: — because, at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use it, OK?
TRUMP: It’s the worst thing when we do these interviews, we — with everybody, not me…
TRUMP: — and you ask a question like that and everybody comes clean and they’re so honest.
You know, we need unpredictability. The enemy, we have enemies. ISIS is a enemy. And it’s an enemy not wearing uniforms, so we don’t even know who the enemy is. You know, in the old days we’d have Japan or we’d have Germany or we’d have — they would have soldiers.
TRUMP: They would be dressed, we’d be dressed, we’d know who we were fighting.
TRUMP: You’d have — it was called a war.
We don’t know who these people are. The fact is, we need unpredictability. And when you ask a question like that, it’s a very — it’s a very sad thing to have to answer it, because the enemy is watching and I have a very good chance of winning and I frankly don’t want the enemy to know how I’m thinking.
Trump said he wasn’t that worried about more countries getting nukes since “it’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them”
WALLACE: You want to have a nuclear arms race on the Korean peninsula?
TRUMP: In many ways, and I say this, in many ways, the world is changing. Right now, you have Pakistan and you have North Korea and you have China and you have Russia and you have India and you have the United States and many other countries have nukes.
TRUMP: It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them.
[Fox News, 4/3/16]
Trump had no idea what the “nuclear triad” was
HEWITT: Mr. Trump…
… Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.
What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible; who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I’m frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you’re going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly. And it was very important.
But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria; get out — if we didn’t have the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive that we can’t just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn’t care. It was hand-to-hand combat.
The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon.
That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.
HEWITT: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him.
TRUMP: I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.
Trump started talking about nuclear weapons in Pakistan and made no sense at all
Trump said he’d be OK with a nuclear arms race in Asia
BLITZER: But — but you’re ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers?
TRUMP: I am prepared to — if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are, right now, the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.
You know, when people look at our military and they say, “Oh, wow, that’s fantastic,” they have many, many times — you know, we spend many times what any other country spends on the military. But it’s not really for us. We’re defending other countries.
So all I’m saying is this: they have to pay.
And you know what? I’m prepared to walk, and if they have to defend themselves against North Korea, where you have a maniac over there, in my opinion, if they don’t — if they don’t take care of us properly, if they don’t respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what’s going to have to happen, Wolf?
It’s very simple. They’re going to have to defend themselves.
The time he said it didn’t matter if Saudi Arabia acquired nuclear weapons because “it’s going to happen anyway”
COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?
TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.
COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?
TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.
Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.
COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?
TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen, anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.
Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.
Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.