Trump’s Dangerous Nuclear “Unpredictability”

To me nuclear is just, the power, the devastation is very important to me.” 

–Donald Trump, 12/15/15

Donald Trump’s campaign has been a series of escalating temper tantrums and dangerous rhetoric that has alienated military leaders and our allies — proving once and for all just how unfit he is to be commander in chief.

Trump’s foreign policy is as simple as “I want to be unpredictable.” It’s his answer for nearly everything, either because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or it actually encapsulates his dangerous temperament.

He’s argued “you want to be unpredictable” on nuclear policy. He’s bragged that his business record demonstrates he is “so unpredictable.” He’s reverted to being unpredictable when asked about bombing a hypothetical Iranian nuclear site, and again when asked if he would use nuclear weapons against ISIS.

And when Trump isn’t threatening to be unpredictable with our nuclear arsenal, he’s encouraged allies like JapanSouth Korea, and Saudi Arabia to develop their own nuclear weapons.

Trump’s question: “if we have nukes, why can’t we use them?” wasn’t just an academic exercise. It proves that Trump is unpredictable, dangerous, and an existential threat to our safety and national security.

Background:

Trump Wrong On Nuclear Policy

Trump’s views on the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation would upend decades of American strategy:

  • Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he would not feel comfortable “right now” with Trump’s “proverbial finger on the nuclear button” and indicated that he believed temperament was the most quality for a President. Former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta indicated similar reservations, noting that it he worried that Trump was “sending a signal to countries abroad” that he “really doesn’t know what he really wants to do when it comes to protecting our national security.”

  • Trump repeatedly refused to rule out the use of Nuclear weapons against Iran, ISIS, and even Europe, claiming instead that he wanted to be “unpredictable” and that “you’re a bad negotiator” if you ruled out the use of nuclear weapons.

  • Trump questioned on television why the U.S. was making nuclear weapons if Presidents were expected to rule out use of them. In addition, MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough alleged that a foreign policy expert recalled that Trump repeatedly questioned—three times—why the U.S. could not use nuclear weapons “if we have them.”

  • When asked which leg of the nuclear triad he would prioritize, Trump failed to answer and said “for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

  • Trump believed the world may be safer if Japan and South Korea built their own nuclear arsenals to, in turn, threaten North Korea. Trump also stated he would “absolutely” support Saudi Arabia’s development of nuclear weapons.

  • Trump claimed that “our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.”

  • Between 1998 – 2003, Trump rented office space to Iranian-government controlled Bank Melli—which facilitated purchases for Iran’s Nuclear Program and announced support for groups like the Taliban, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

Top National Security Leaders Feared A Trump Presidency

Former Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates Felt Uncomfortable With Trump Getting Access To Nuclear Launch Codes

Robert Gates, When Asked If He Felt Comfortable With Trump’s Finger On The Button, Responded “Right Now, No.”

Robert Gates Admitted He Would Not Feel Comfortable If Donald Trump Had The Launch Codes For Nuclear Weapons. According to Yahoo! News, “Robert Gates, the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, said Thursday that he would not be comfortable if Donald Trump had control over the launch codes for nuclear weapons. Gates sounded off on the presumptive Republican presidential candidate during a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric in New York.” [Yahoo! News, 5/19/16]

Robert Gates When Asked If He Felt Comfortable With Trump’s “Proverbial Finger On The Nuclear Button,” “Took A Deep Breath Before Answering” And Said “Right Now? No.”  According to Yahoo! News, “‘Would you feel comfortable with his proverbial finger on the nuclear button?’ Couric asked. Gates, who also served as director of the CIA in the early ‘90s, took a deep breath before answering: ‘Right now? No. But the question is does he moderate his views on national security issues going forward? Does he begin to have some more informed views about the complexities of some of these issues, some of the challenges that we face? And who does he choose as his advisors? If all of those things turned out in a positive way, then my concerns would be significantly reduced.’” [Yahoo! News, 5/19/16]

Gates Claimed The Right Temperament Was The Most Important Quality For A President. According to Yahoo! News, “He said the right temperament is perhaps the most important quality for a president. When pressed, he declined to comment on whether Trump or likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would be a better choice based on this criterion.” [Yahoo! News, 5/19/16]

Leon Panetta: Trump’s Constant Flip-Flopping On Positions WAs “A Dangerous approach”

Former CIA Director And Secretary Of Defense Leon Panetta On Donald Trump: “I Worry That It’s Sending A Signal To Countries Abroad That A Candidate For President Of The United States Really Doesn’t Know What He Really Wants To Do When It Comes To Protecting Our National Security.”  CNN looks at Donald Trump’s evolving opinions on Libya and Gadhafi. Wolf Blitzer asked Leon Panetta about Donald Trump’s evolving positions. “My biggest concern is that he’s running for president of the United States, and we’re dealing with a very dangerous world. And I frankly don’t know what his positions are when it comes to all of these threats that our country is facing. He takes one position one day and then another position the next day. And I think Secretary Clinton tried to point out that in her speech last week that this is a dangerous approach for someone who wants to be commander in chief of the United States. I worry that it’s sending a signal to countries abroad that a candidate for president of the United States really doesn’t know what he really wants to do when it comes to protecting our national security…” Panetta then talked about the dangers of having a candidate that “shoots from the hip”. [CNN’s Wolf: 6/6/16]

Trump Refused To Rule Out Use Of Nuclear Weapons

2016: Trump Pledged Be “Unpredictable” On Nuclear Policy

Trump On Whether He Would Bomb Iran Over Nuclear Weapons: “I Want To Be Unpredictable.” O’Reilly: “If you’re elected president and you don’t like the [Iranian] deal, you’re going to scrap the deal, now are you going to bomb their facilities—are you going to do that?’ Trump: ‘Bill, I’m going to do what’s right. I want to be unpredictable. I’m not going to tell you right now what I’m going to do.” [O’Reilly Factor,  1/5/16]

Trump Refused To Say Whether He Would Definitely Rule Out Striking First

Regarding Nuclear Weapons, Trump Said “I Would Certainly Not Do First Strike” And Minutes Later Said “[I] Can’t Take Anything Off The Table.” According to USA Today, “Trump offered a confusing response when asked about the country’s current ‘first use’ policy on nuclear weapons, which implicitly reserves the right to a preemptive strike. Trump, who drifted to a number of unrelated topics in his answer, said ‘I would certainly not do first strike’ before adding moments later he ‘can’t take anything off the table.’” [USA Today, 9/27/16]

Trump Repeatedly Refused To Rule Out Using Nuclear Weapons, Even On Europe

Trump Refused To Rule Out Using Nuclear Weapons On Europe: “You Don’t Want To Say Take Anything Off The Table, Because You’re A Bad Negotiator If You Do That.” Trump: “You don’t want to say take anything off the table, because you’re a bad negotiator if you do that.” Chris Matthews: “Just Nuclear.” Trump: “Look Nuclear should be off the table. But, where there be a time when it could be used—possibly.” Matthews: Okay, the trouble is when you said that, the world heard—David Cameron in Britain heard it, the Japanese, where we bombed them…they’re hearing a guy running for President of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that.”  [MSNBC Town Hall With Chris Matthews, 3/30/16]

[Video] 2016: Trump, On The Possibility Of Using Nuclear Weapons Against ISIS: I’m Never Going To Rule Anything Out—I Wouldn’t Want To Say.” When asked if he would employ nuclear weapons against ISIS, Trump said, “I’m never going to rule anything out—I wouldn’t want to say. 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. We need unpredictability. 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 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.” [“With All Due Respect” MSNBC, 3/23/16]

Trump Questioned Why The U.S. Made Nuclear Weapons If Not To Use Them.

[Video] Trump On Denouncing Nuclear Weapons: “Then Why Are We Making Them? We Do We Make Them?”

Chris Matthews: “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. Donald Trump: ‘Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? [MSNBC Town Hall, 3/30/16]

Joe Scarborough: Trump Asked A Foreign Policy Expert “Three Times” About The Use Of Nuclear Weapons, Asking At One Point, “If We Have Them, Why Can’t We Use Them?” According to The Hill, “Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump asked a foreign policy adviser multiple times in an hourlong briefing why the U.S. can’t use its nuclear weapons, MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough said Wednesday morning. Scarborough revealed the story while he was interviewing former CIA Director Michael Hayden on ‘Morning Joe’ about Trump’s campaign. ‘Several months ago, a foreign policy expert went to advise Donald Trump,’ Scarborough said. ‘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 why he doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him,’ Scarborough added. Trump’s presidential campaign said the anecdote is false.” [Hill, 8/3/16]

Trump Failed To Answer Question On Nuclear Triad

When Asked Which Leg Of Nuclear Triad He Would Prioritize, Trump Said: “I Think, For Me, Nuclear Is Just The Power, The Devastation Is Very Important To Me.” According to a transcript of the December 16th, 2015 Republican presidential debate produced by TIME Magazine, “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.” [TIME Magazine, 12/15/15; YouTube, 12/15/15]

Washington Post’s The Fix: “Trump Clearly Had No Idea What The Nuclear Triad Was.” According to a The Fix post on The Washington Post, “He just couldn’t keep it up for the whole debate. Trump showed his thin skin when, under attack from Jeb, he dismissed the Florida governor with this polling slam: ‘I’m at 42 and you’re at 3.’ Later in the debate, Trump clearly had no idea what the nuclear triad was and, in a transparent attempt to cover his tracks, resorted to his ‘we need to be so strong’ crutch.” [Washington Post – The Fix, 12/15/15]

Rolling Stone On Trump’s Answer To Nuclear Triad Question: “He Doesn’t Understand Even The Most Basic Premise Of A Relatively Simple Question.” According to Rolling Stone, “Donald Trump and I have something in common: When right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt asked the GOP frontrunner about America’s nuclear triad at Tuesday night’s debate, neither of us had heard that phrase before. […] The problem isn’t simply that Trump doesn’t have detailed plans to make sure our nuclear weapons are safely maintained. The problem is that he doesn’t understand even the most basic premise of a relatively simple question. He couldn’t muster a ‘I’ll make sure we have the most modern, best nuclear arsenal the world has ever seen,’ because he didn’t know what he was being asked.” [Rolling Stone, 12/16/15]

HEADLINE: Trump Appears Stumped By Question On Nuclear Triad [CNN, 12/17/16]

Trump Considered Supporting Japan, South Korea, And Saudi Arabia As Nuclear Powers

Trump Supported Japan, North Korea To Obtain Nuclear Weapons

Trump On Japan And South Korea: “Maybe They Would Be Better Off […] With Nukes.” Interview. Trump:  It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them.  So, North Korea has nukes.  Japan has a problem with that.  I mean, they have a big problem with that.  Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea. Wallace: With nukes? Trump:  Maybe they would be better off — including with nukes, yes, including with nukes. Wallace:  In South Korea, with nukes? Trump:  South Korea is right next door, just so you understand. [FoxNews Sunday w/ Chris Wallace:4/3/16]

Trump: “At Some Point We Have To Say, You Know What, We’re Better Off If Japan Protects Itself Against This Maniac In North Korea, We’re Better Off, Frankly, If South Korea Is Going To Start To Protect Itself.” Town Hall. Cooper:  So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having… Trump:  I thought… Cooper:  … nuclear weapons. Trump:  At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have… [CNN’s Town Hall:]

Position Lampooned By Arms Control Experts

Dartmouth’s Jennifer Lind On Trump’s Comments Considering Support For Japan, South Korea To Acquire Nuclear Weapons: “With One Blasé Comment, This Entire Foundation Of US Grand Strategy Is Just Blasted Away.” According to Vox, “Of all the outrageous things Donald Trump has said, his proposal to withdraw US military support from Japan and South Korea, and even encourage them to acquire nuclear weapons, might not sound particularly egregious. But this would be a big deal, overturning 70 years of American foreign policy with potentially sweeping implications. ‘This is basically like, ‘Hey, maybe we should think about communism,’’ Jennifer Lind, a professor at Dartmouth who studies East Asia, tells me. ‘With one blasé comment, this entire foundation of US grand strategy is just blasted away.’” [Vox, 3/31/16]

Arms Control Association’s Kingston Reif: “If South Korea And Japan Were To Acquire Their Own Nuclear Deterrents, That Would Send An Incredibly Dangerous Signal To Our Allies In The Middle East.” According to Business Insider, “Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat-reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, made a similar point. ‘If South Korea and Japan were to acquire their own nuclear deterrents, that would send an incredibly dangerous signal to our allies in the Middle East,’ he told Business Insider. ‘It would be incredibly destabilizing development,’ he added.” [Business Insider, 3/30/16]

Arms Control Association’s Kingston Reif: China Would Likely Accelerate Its Nuclear Modernization, Increase Arsenal Size If South Korea And Japan Acquired Nuclear Weapons. According to Business Insider, “China’s ‘doctrine regarding when it might employ nuclear weapons might be described as one of minimum deterrence,’ [Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat-reduction policy at the Arms Control Association] said. ‘China right now is believed to have no more than 300 total nuclear weapons, which is a small arsenal relative to what the US and Russia possess.’ He continued: But in the event that South Korea and Japan acquire independent nuclear weapons, it’s highly likely that China would revisit its minimum deterrence posture and likely accelerate its ongoing nuclear modernization efforts and consider increasing the overall size of its nuclear arsenal.” [Business Insider, 3/30/16]

Trump Said He Would Support Saudi Arabia Development Of Nuclear Weapons

Trump Said He Would “Absolutely” Allow Saudi Arabia To Develop Nuclear Weapons.  “Anderson Cooper:  So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons. Donald Trump:  At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have… Cooper:  Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons? Trump:  Saudi Arabia, absolutely.”  [CNN Milwaukee Republican Presidential Town Hall, 3/29/16]

Trump Falsely Claimed America’s Nuclear Arsenal “Doesn’t Work.”

Trump Claimed “Our Nuclear Arsenal Doesn’t Work.”  “Our enemies are getting stronger and stronger by the way, and we as a country are getting weaker.  Even our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work. It came out recently they have equipment that is 30 years old. They don’t know if it worked. … Boy, does that send signals to Putin that they don’t know what they’re doing.” [Donald Trump, Presidential Campaign Announcement, New York, NY 6/16/15]

  • PolitiFact Rated Trump’s Claims About The Nuclear Arsenal “False.”  [PolitiFact, 6/18/15]

1998: Trump Rented Space To Iranian Bank Melli, Who Facilitated Purchases For Iran’s Nuclear Program

1998 – 2003: Trump Rented Office Space To An Iranian Bank Linked to Terrorists Groups

Bank Melli Was An Iranian-Government Controlled Bank That Supported Terrorist Groups

Trump Rented New York Office Space To An Iranian Bank Linked To Terrorist Groups. According to The Center For Public Integrity, “Donald Trump’s real estate organization rented New York office space from 1998 to 2003 to an Iranian bank that U.S. authorities have linked to terrorist groups and Iran’s nuclear program.” [Center For Public Integrity, 10/3/16]

The Embargo Against Iran Was Put In Place In 1995, And In 1998, Trump Inherited Bank Melli As A Tenant In The Newly Purchased GM Building. According to The Center For Public Integrity, “As Iran supported terror attacks abroad, the U.S. moved to punish the regime economically. President Bill Clinton approved a sweeping embargo in 1995 that banned Americans from conducting trade with Iranian businesses. Bank Melli, one of Iran’s largest state-owned banks, had long had an office in the GM Building in midtown Manhattan. In 1998, Trump’s real estate organization bought the building and inherited Bank Melli as a tenant.” [Center For Public Integrity, 10/3/16]

Trump Rented Office Space To Bank Melli Until 2003 When Conseco Took Control Of The GM Building. According to The Center For Public Integrity, “The Trump Organization continued renting office space to Bank Melli until the insurance company Conseco, which had provided financing for the 1998 purchase, took control of the GM Building in 2003 and sold it to the Macklowe Organization, a New York City real estate developer.” [Center For Public Integrity, 10/3/16]

Bank Melli Facilitated Purchases For Iran’s Nuclear Program

Bank Melli Facilitated Purchases For Iran’s Nuclear Program And Announced Support For Groups Like The Taliban, Hamas, And Hezbollah. According to The Center For Public Integrity, “In 2007, U.S. authorities charged that Bank Melli had facilitated purchases for Iran’s nuclear program, and that it had been used to send at least $100 million to the Quds Force, the feared special operations unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The Quds Force was designated as a supporter of terrorism by President George W. Bush weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for providing support to the Taliban, Hamas and Hezbollah, groups that the U.S. has labeled as terrorist organizations.” [Center For Public Integrity, 10/3/16]

Trump May Have Violated The Law

Trump May Have Violated The Law By Doing Business With The Iranian Bank If They Did Not Have The Proper Licenses Given The Embargo Prohibiting Americans From Doing Business With Iran. According to The Center For Public Integrity, “At the time, the U.S. had a sweeping embargo in place which prohibited Americans from doing business with Iran, including receiving rent payments. However, some Iranian organizations were granted licenses exempting specific transactions from sanctions. If the payments were licensed, it may have been legally difficult for the Trump Organization to evict the bank.” [Center For Public Integrity, 10/3/16]