The Slatest

Donald Trump Asked an Adviser Three Times Why the U.S. Can’t Use Its Nukes, Says Joe Scarborough

What’s a little fallout?

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

During an interview Wednesday morning with former CIA Director Michael Hayden, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough dropped an incredibly frightening, albeit anonymously sourced, anecdote about Donald Trump’s fascination with nuclear weapons (segment starts about 50 seconds in):


Joe Scarborough: Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked, at one point, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” That’s one of the reasons he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him.

Mike Barnicle: Trump, Trump asked three times?

Joe Scarborough: Three times, in an hour briefing, why can’t we use nuclear weapons.

Mika Brzezinski: Be careful America and be careful Republican leaders. Your party is blowing up.*

This raises a number of questions, among them: Joe, how long have you been sitting on this little tidbit? Didn’t you think it was worth sharing before? Mika, couldn’t you have picked a metaphor other than “blowing up”? Who was this adviser? Why hasn’t he shared this information with, say, the New York Times or Wall Street Journal or anybody who might have investigated Trump’s apparent confusion over why we can’t rain nuclear death upon our enemies?


But let’s not lose focus. This suggests that Trump felt he had pressing questions about why we can’t deploy our nuclear arsenal. (Yes, I can hear the Trumpkins chiming in: “He just wanted to understand the issue really well!” But no. This is not a subject that requires three run-throughs.) Notably, Trump has refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS. “I’m never going to rule anything out—I wouldn’t want to say,” he told Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. “Even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t want to tell you that because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use them,” he said.


Reminder: Donald Trump is campaigning partly for the right to exercise virtually unchecked control over the nation’s nuclear codes.


Update, August 3, 3:17 p.m.: For what it’s worth, Trump’s nominal campaign manager, Paul Manafort, denied Scarborough’s story today during an interview with Fox News.

“Absolutely not true,” he said. “The idea that he’s trying to understand where to use nuclear weapons? It just didn’t happen. I was in the meeting, it didn’t happen.” Take that how you will.

Oh, also, Sopan Deb of CBS News found another interview where Trump refused to take nukes off the table, and rhetorically asked, “Then why are we making them?” Fun times.

*Correction, Aug. 2, 2016: This post originally misspelled Mika Brzezinski’s last name.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.