(CNSNews.com) – President Donald Trump's dedicated naysayers at MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday stoked fears that the president is determined to lead the United States into nuclear war.
Anchors Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough referenced an exclusive NBC report that says Trump, at a Pentagon meeting in July, "said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal."
Trump reportedly called for the increase after he was shown a slide depicting the steady reduction in U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s.
NBC, citing "three officials who were in the room," said Trump's advisers, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, "were surprised" by the president's request and by his failure to understand "the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup."
It was after that Pentagon meeting that Tillerson called Trump a moron, NBC reported.
With great solemnity, host Joe Scarborough said: "And now I think it's up to Congress to figure out a way to actually slow down the process, in any way possible, to put checks on this man's ability to launch a nuclear war that could end up destroying a good part of this earth."
Liberal activists have made similar calls recently, in the press and by petition, to remove Trump’s authority in the nuclear arena.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution checks the president by granting Congress the power to declare war. Article II, Section 2 names the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, allowing him to direct military action.
Carol Lee, one of the reporters who wrote the exclusive NBC story, was asked if Trump seemed intent on actually using nuclear weapons:
"You know, that wasn't necessarily -- when you talked to people, it was more that um, he just wanted more of everything, let's just be the biggest and the best,” Lee responded.
“And it wasn't necessarily drawing that link that we then will use all these weapons, but it was a very -- we are starting to see this picture emerge of this president. He thinks in these dimensions, let's be the biggest and the best and have the most and let's outgun everybody, and not necessarily to use it per se but just to show that the U.S. has all of this strength. We see this not when he talks about defense issue but really any issue," Lee said.
Scarborough again: "It shows a complete ignorance of what preceded you over the past 50 years," he said, mentioning various arms-reduction treaties with Russia.
"You don't just wander into the Middle East and create peace. You don't just wander into Russia and reset the relationship. You don't just wander into nuclear treaties and tear them up. But that's what these people have always believed. Because, and I say this, you can say this objectively, they are ignorant of history, and if you listen to what they have said in public speeches, they are contemptuous of history and they are contemptuous of those of us who actually read history books to get a better understanding of history."
"Wow, staggering and unnerving," Brzezinski commented at the end of the show's leading segment.
(For the record, Trump has publicly feuded with both Brzezinski and Scarborough, insulting them via Twitter, and they spend three hours most weekdays bashing him in return.)
President Trump later tweeted: "Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a 'tenfold' increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!"
‘He never ordered them to build up the nuclear capacity’
Later on "Morning Joe," Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended Trump:
“The president has said we have an aging military. He feels the military hasn't been supported by the previous administration. He wants to rebuild it. He was at a meeting at the Pentagon, as you've reported all morning, July 20th. And he saw a chart that showed how our capacity was in the late '60s and what our capacity now is.
“He said why aren't we building it up to that? He listened to his military leaders. He never ordered them to build up the nuclear capacity. I think that's what part of being the president is. You surround yourself with very smart people. He has great trust in our military leaders like John Kelly, General Mattis -- he listened to what they said and never ordered a buildup of the nuclear arsenal."
NBC's Willie Geist, a regular on "Morning Joe," asked Donovan, "So you don't believe the president would push this to build up the nuclear arsenal -- he was just inquiring about it?"
"I think he listens to his military leaders," Donovan replied. "If his military leaders said yes, Mr. President, we need to increase this, then I think he would have ordered it. But he has great trust in military leaders.
“You can see, he has surrounded himself with folks who have gone through our academies, who have led women and men into combat, so he has great belief and great trust in those leaders, and I think he was being advised by them, and he listened to that advice."