In a constantly-evolving news cycle, the latest target of President Trump’s Twitter account is a favorite of his: NBC. Issuing a lengthy report this morning, they revealed that the comment drawing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s ire in July was Trump’s assertion that we have a tenfold increase in our nuclear stockpile. It was in response to this, and other tense moments that Tillerson is reported to have called the President a “f***ing moron.”
Oh, so that’s why.
The report was written by four journalists, and is backed by three sources who were in the room at the time. According to the piece, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and members of the State Department were part of a meeting of top military brass, and they were taken aback by the comment from the President. Military leaders told the President that there are legal and practical obstacles to such a buildup, and it was likely unnecessary, because our military position in the world is stronger than in past, when our arsenal was still growing. We have several treaties around the world limiting our expansion of the nuclear stockpile.
But, the report that he asked about an increase clearly got under the President’s skin, as he responded in the last hour – not surprisingly – on Twitter, this time threatening the FCC license of NBC, and comparing them to CNN. He calls them both “fake news” any time they report negative news on the administration.
At issue may be semantics, as the officials present were quoted as saying the president’s comments came during a slide presentation on nuclear stockpiles showing we had over 32,000 nuclear warheads in the 1960’s. President Trump said he wanted us to have that many now. The U.S. currently has just under 4,000. The “nearly tenfold” headline is drawn from the simple math between the two numbers.
This is in contrast to then-candidate Trump’s comments in December 2015, when he stated during a CNN interview in Milwaukee, “I don’t want more nuclear weapons.” Although, he’s left military observers in confusion, as he’s suggested “changes” to nuclear non-proliferation treaties before becoming President.
The chain of stories has left the White House in an awkward place. First, the report came out that Sec Tillerson once called the President a “f***ing moron,” to which Trump called it “fake news.” Then, the press continued to expand on the report and while questioning the President about Tillerson’s non-denial denial, Trump said “if it’s true,” he challenges Sec Tillerson to an IQ test match, something Press Sec Sarah Sanders called “a joke.” Now, with this report, we see some of what caused Tillerson to allegedly use the language following the meeting.
For it’s part, NBC is standing it’s ground, and defending it’s report. In the midst of the contentious relationship between the President and the press corps, editors have been making their journalists gather three, sometimes four or more sources on stories before publication. Although, the White House is leaking so much over the last nine months, it hasn’t been that hard to find them.
UPDATE 3:37pm: During Oval Office remarks at a press conference with Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the President went further, saying “disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”
Yeah, that’s how it works, Mr. President.