With his arms crossed like a petulant child forced to take a time out, President Donald Trump on Tuesday declared North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it threatens the U.S. with its nuclear weapons program, a dramatic turn that brought the stand off between Washington and Pyongyang into sharp relief.
But as it turns out, the president’s apocalyptic promise was reportedly not vetted by his top national security officials at all. Instead, he pulled that terrifying turn of phrase out of thin air.
Citing “several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded,” The New York Times reported Wednesday that no one—not the president’s military advisors, or even his newly-appointed chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly—had been briefed on the language Trump used. The sheet of paper sitting in front of him while he delivered his statement was not, as one might expect, a set of prepared remarks. It was, in fact, “a fact sheet on the opioid crisis.”
The White House essentially confirmed the Times’ account in a brief statement from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explaining that Kelly and the rest of the president’s national security team were “well aware of the tone of the statement of the president prior to delivery.”
However, Sanders admitted, “The words were all his own.”
What’s more, the Times reported that Trump’s decision to rattle his saber was prompted not by briefings on high-level intelligence with his national security team, but a bombshell story from the Washington Post that reported North Korea now has the capacity to fit a nuclear warhead instead a missile.
So instead of waiting to be asked about the growing nuclear threat by the press, Trump (who was “in a bellicose mood,” according to one of the Times’ unnamed sources) jumped the gun and threatened to rain hellfire down on a burgeoning nuclear power, all of his own accord.
I feel safer already.