This Meeting Is the One That Allegedly Led to 'Moron' Comment
NBC reports Trump suggested the US should have more nukes; president calls it fake news
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2017 11:20 AM CDT
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President Trump walks to board Air Force One in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – One of the big Trump headlines Wednesday comes courtesy of NBC News, which reports that the president said he wanted "what amounted to a nearly tenfold" increase in the number of nuclear warheads in the US arsenal. The report, based on three anonymous sources, said that Trump saw a slide during a July 20 national security meeting showing that the number of warheads reached a high of about 32,000 in the late 1960s but had since dropped to the current figure of about 4,000. Trump then said he'd like to return to the higher number, which would mark a reversal in decades of policy. The report isn't clear on just how serious Trump was, but it says officials including Rex Tillerson were surprised and went on to explain the ramifications (such as China and Russia ramping up accordingly). Trump disputed the account and issued a threat of sorts to the network.

"Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a 'tenfold' increase in our US nuclear arsenal," he tweeted. "Pure fiction, made up to demean." He then added: "With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!" The NBC report alleges it was directly after this national security meeting that Tillerson uttered his "moron" remark about the president. (A State Department spokesperson denies Tillerson ever said that.) An analysis at the Washington Post by Philip Bump makes the case that the alleged request by Trump makes sense, because the president favors military power over diplomacy and he sees nuclear weapons as the ultimate expression of that power. (Trump previously boasted that he's making the nuclear arsenal "more powerful than ever before.")

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