Donald Trump Has History of Contradictory Statements on Nuclear Weapons

Campaign Flashback: Trump’s 2016 Nuclear Weapons Stance1:45

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. drastically increase its nuclear arsenal follows a presidential campaign in which he made a number of contradictory statements about weapons of mass destruction.

As a candidate, he called nuclear proliferation the “single biggest threat” facing the world while also suggesting Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons as a defense. During one debate he ruled out a “first strike” but in the same breath said he would not take anything off the table.

Related: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military

His desire to increase the country’s nuclear capabilities nearly tenfold, voiced during a meeting with top national security leaders in July, came as North Korea continued to escalate nuclear tensions with more weapons tests.

As a candidate and as president, Trump has been fairly consistent in calling for the modernization of the country’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s how Trump has talked about nuclear weapons since launching his presidential run and entering the White House.

Trump Claims to Have Ordered the Modernization of the Country’s Nuclear Weapons

My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….

…Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!

As a Candidate, He Criticized the Country’s Nuclear Arsenal as Outdated

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

Trump Has Given A Variety of Answers on Using Nuclear Weapons

  • “I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” — Presidential DebateSept. 26, 2016
  • “I don’t want to rule out anything. I will be the last to use nuclear weapons. It’s a horror to use nuclear weapons. The power of weaponry today is the single greatest problem that our world has.” — TODAY, April 28, 2016
  • “I will do everything within my power never to be in a position where we have to use nuclear power because that’s a whole different ballgame.” — Interview with The New York Times, July 21, 2016
  • “Nuclear should be off the table, but would there be a time when it would be used? Possibly. Possibly. … I would be the last one to use the nuclear weapons. Because that’s sort of like the end of the ballgame. … I’m not going to use nukes, but I’m not taking any cards off the table.” — Town Hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, March 30, 2016
  • “Well, it is an absolute last stance. And, you know, I use the word unpredictable. You want to be unpredictable.” — Interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Jan. 3, 2016
  • “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them.” —Interview with GQ, Nov. 23, 2015

He Has Called Nuclear Proliferation the “Greatest Threat” Facing the U.S.

  • “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.” — Interview with The New York Times, March 26, 2016
  • “Our single biggest problem we have is nuclear weapons, you know, countries with them.” — Town Hall on Fox News, March 3, 2016
  • “The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.” — Republican Presidential Debate, Dec. 15, 2015

But He Has Also Suggested Japan, South Korea and Even Saudi Arabia Should Have Them

  • As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody in the — we’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century. All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons.” — Presidential Debate, Oct. 19, 2016

CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: But — but you’re ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers?

TRUMP: I am prepared to — if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are, right now, the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.

You know, when people look at our military and they say, “Oh, wow, that’s fantastic,” they have many, many times — you know, we spend many times what any other country spends on the military. But it’s not really for us. We’re defending other countries.

So all I’m saying is this: They have to pay.

And you know what? I’m prepared to walk, and if they have to defend themselves against North Korea, where you have a maniac over there, in my opinion, if they don’t — if they don’t take care of us properly, if they don’t respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what’s going to have to happen, Wolf?

It’s very simple. They’re going to have to defend themselves.

— Interview on CNN, May, 4, 2016

CNN’s ANDERSON COOPER: So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having 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 …

COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.

Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.

Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.

— CNN Town Hall, March 29, 2016

Trump Even Said He Would Not Take Using a Nuclear Bomb in Europe Off the Table

  • “Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability. Now, our capability is going down rapidly because of what we’re doing. It’s in bad shape. The equipment is not properly maintained. There are all lot of talk about that. And that’s a bad thing, not a good thing. The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don’t want to take anything off the table. We have to negotiate. There will be times maybe when we’re going to be in a very deep, very difficult, very horrible negotiation. The last person — I’m not going to take it off the table. And I said it yesterday. And I stay with it.” — Interview on Fox News, March 31, 2016
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In Iran and North Korea, Trump Is Playing With Nuclear Fire

Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during an Anti-US protest after Donald Trump's UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during a protest after Donald Trump’s UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which spearheaded a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of this award cannot be underestimated.

Donald Trump’s bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world.

The US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing 210,000 people. During the week following the bombings, thousands of survivors experienced a unique combination of symptoms, Susan Southard wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

Their hair fell out in large clumps, their wounds secreted extreme amounts of pus, and their gums swelled and bled. Purple spots appeared on their bodies, signs of hemorrhaging beneath the skin. Infections ravaged their internal organs. Within a few days of the onset of symptoms, many people lost consciousness, mumbled deliriously and died in extreme pain; others languished for weeks before either dying or slowly recovering.

In the face of Trump’s nuclear threats, the danger the world faces is immeasurable.

Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, more than 120 countries approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The treaty also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Fifty-three countries officially signed the treaty, and three have already ratified it, which makes them parties to the accord. Ninety days after 50 countries ratify it, the treaty will enter into force.

However, the five original nuclear-armed countries — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote as well. In October 2016, during negotiations, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

The State Department issued a statement saying, “The United States does not support and will not sign the [treaty].”

Trump Threatens to Blow Up the Iran Deal

Meanwhile, Trump is moving the world closer to nuclear war, threatening North Korea with destruction and attempting to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran. The day before the new treaty was concluded, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked; that amounted to a threat to commit genocide.

Peace prize historian Oeivind Stenersen said the Nobel committee intended “to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations. The prize is also coded to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

The Iran deal is embodied in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It rescinded the punishing US and international sanctions on Iran, amounting to billions of dollars of relief. In return, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must determine every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether it still serves US interests. The next 90-day period ends on October 15. Trump will reportedly refuse to certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement on October 12, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding that Iran is in compliance.

If Trump refuses to certify that Iran is compliant with the JCPOA or determines the agreement is not in the national interest, Congress will then have 60 days to act. If Congress reimposes sanctions, it would likely cause the JCPOA to unravel. Iran would then proceed with a program to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House has signaled that Trump will urge Congress not to reimpose sanctions, but rather hopes Congress will pass new legislation beyond the scope of the original deal. “If Congress complies, such unilateral action to change a multilateral agreement will effective kill it,” Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and US lead negotiator for the JCPOA, wrote in The New York Times.

Moreover, if Trump’s actions scuttle the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to North Korea that the United States cannot be trusted to abide by its multilateral agreements.

Both Trump’s threats against North Korea and his undermining of the JCPOA could lead to nuclear war.

US Violates Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states to refrain from acquiring them. In 2005, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the Institute for Public Accuracy, “The US government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice stated in an advisory opinion, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” But the nuclear powers have ignored that decision.

And in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which established a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, Israel maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal.

“The nuclear weapons states, governed by political realists, basically have no trust in law or morality when it comes to national security,” international law expert Richard Falk wrote, “but base their faith in the hyper-rationality of destructive military power, which in the nuclear age is expressed in the arcane idiom of deterrence, an idea more transparently known in the Cold War Era as Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD!!).”

Indeed, Trump is planning a $1 trillion rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons program.

Only the US Has Used Nuclear Weapons

The United States is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons. On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of his house helping his father prepare it for demolition when he saw a huge fireball coming at him. He heard a deafening explosion and felt a searing pain throughout his body. It felt as if boiling water had been poured over him. His chest and right arm were totally burned. Pieces of his flesh fell from his body like ragged clothing. The pain was unbearable. Shinji was three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the bomb. He survived, but most of his family perished.

Shinji’s daughter, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising From the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness, told a Veterans for Peace Convention that 99 percent of those who were outdoors at the time of the blast died immediately or within 48 hours.

This should serve as a cautionary note to Trump — and Congress — that there is no trifling with nuclear weapons.

“The Calm Before the Storm”

Yet during a photo opportunity he staged with military leaders after meeting with them to discuss North Korea and Iran, Trump issued an ominous warning:

“You guys know what this represents? … Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

What storm?

“You’ll find out.”

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, told The Hill that Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal “will trigger a process that very likely will lead to the collapse of the deal.”

Parsi said on Democracy Now!, “The buzz here is that there’s going to be a very significant ramping up, an escalation, in the region against Iran, potentially including shooting down Iranian airplanes, sinking Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, targeting Iranian troops or Iranian-allied troops in Iraq and in Syria.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reportedly counseling Trump to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

But Trump has consistently criticized the Iran deal, probably because it was concluded on Barack Obama’s watch and Israel is dead set against it.

In any event, Trump is playing with fire — nuclear fire — in both North Korea and Iran. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail. The stakes are unbearably high.

Trump’s Ominous “Calm Before the Storm” Comment Sparks Fear of Impending War

 Donald Trump (center), national security advisor H.R. McMaster (left), White House chief of staff John Kelly (second left) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (right) attend a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House October 5, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump (center), National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster (left), White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (second left) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (right) attend a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House October 5, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: A White House official referred to Trump’s comment as “trolling.”

During a photo-op ahead of a dinner with high-ranking military officials and their spouses Thursday night, President Donald Trump made a “foreboding” remark that immediately provoked fears that the United States could launch yet another war.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump asked reporters gathered in the State Dining Room. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be the calm, the calm before the storm.”

When asked by reporters to explain, Trump refused, saying: “You’ll find out.”

Watch:

 

TRUMP: “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

REPORTER: “What storm Mr. President?”
TRUMP: “You’ll find out.” (via Satellite News)

The comment came following a meeting between Trump and military leaders, during which both Iran and North Korea were reportedly discussed.

Regarding North Korea, Trump said military officials are prepared to provide him “a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace.”

And as the Washington Post first reported on Thursday, Trump is planning to decertify the Iran nuclear accord some time next week — a move critics are denouncing as a step in the direction of military conflict.

Commentators and lawmakers immediately expressed alarm at the president’s cryptic comments.

This is NOT something a normal, stable Commander in Chief says, especially in the middle of a nuclear crisis with North Korea.  https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656 

This is beyond irresponsible. Trump’s triggering widespread panic — and he seems perfectly okay with it. This alone = impeach. https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656 

Following Trump’s remarks, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) urged his colleagues to support his bill that would bar the president from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval.

Freaked out? Support HR 669 by Sen @EdMarkey & me. Bill prohibits @POTUS from launching nuclear 1st strike without Congressional approval. https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656 

McCain resumes his quest for climate change action

 http://www.hcn.org/articles/sen-john-mccain-resumes-his-quest-for-action-on-climate-change?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

The senator bucks his party on climate change, after years of silence.

On Sunday, Sen. John McCain said it’s time to sit down again and figure out some “common-sense solutions” to climate change. The Arizona Republican made his cautious remarks on CNN when asked why others in his party act as if climate change is not real. In recent days, President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt brushed off questions about climate change and Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the storms that killed dozens of people and caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damages in the South. Trump and most of McCain’s Republican colleagues in Congress are busy reversing former President Barack Obama’s climate change agenda.

McCain, who recently started treatment for an aggressive type of brain cancer, told CNN the climate is being altered in “unprecedented” ways. Nuclear and renewable energy need to be part of the solution: “Solar and other technologies make it cheaper for energy for many of the American people, including a state like mine where we have lots of sunshine,” he added.

This isn’t the first time McCain has bucked his own party on climate change, although he hasn’t been prominent on the issue since his loss to Obama in 2008. “He embraces being the voice of the maverick in the Republican Party; speaking truth to power,” says Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University in North Carolina. “Climate change is one of the big issues where he wants to do this with President Trump.”

McCain diverged from his party on climate change after an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president. In 2000, McCain was followed around New Hampshire by a recent college graduate who wore a makeshift superhero costume and called himself Captain Climate Change. Instead of sending security guards after him, McCain publicly discussed climate change with him at campaign events.

Back in the Senate, McCain stuck with the issue, Floyd Deschamps, a longtime McCain aide, remembers. “When he came back off the campaign in 2000, he talked about how many younger voters asked him where he stood on climate change and what his policy was on climate change,” Deschamps says. “At the time, he really didn’t have a policy.” That spring and summer, as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, McCain held hearings on climate science. Starting in 2001, he drafted the first bipartisan climate change legislation with Joe Lieberman, at the time a Democratic senator from Connecticut. They worked together for years trying to push it through Congress, despite the opposition of most congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush.

Sen. John McCain, left, and frequent ally former Sen. Joe Lieberman at the Munich Security Conference in 2010.

Their bill used a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, allowing companies to buy and sell permission to pollute. When McCain forced a vote in 2003 on the so-called cap-and-trade bill, it was defeated 44-53. But support kept broadening, eventually drawing endorsements from major electric utilities. “McCain changed the political dynamic of the issue in the United States,” recalls Profeta, who at the time was Lieberman’s counsel for the environment.

McCain won his party’s nomination for president in 2008 and he and his Democratic rival, Obama, both supported climate change legislation.

The next year, with Democrats in charge, the House passed a cap-and-trade bill that differed in significant ways from McCain and Lieberman’s and drew criticism from McCain. In the Senate, a McCain ally, Sen. Lyndsey Graham, R-S.C., was a key player. McCain, who faced reelection, was not.

“It did seem a bit like a betrayal; at the time I assumed it was politics and I still do,” remembers Katharine Jacobs, a University of Arizona professor and director of its Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions. She worked on climate science in the Obama White House.

Without Republican support or strong leadership from Obama, the Senate version imploded in 2010. There have been no serious efforts to revive climate change legislation since then.

So when McCain suggested on CNN that the time has come to readdress climate legislation, Democrats took notice. “When you have an administration that is in denial mode about climate change, to have a senator as prominent as McCain make an opening — I think it’s an opening we should take advantage of,” says Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources committee.

McCain has already slowed the reversal of Obama’s climate change policies. In May he unexpectedly joined two other Republican senators in voting to keep a Bureau of Land Management rule designed to limit emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations.

Still, even as he defied his own party, McCain lashed out at his likeliest allies in any climate deal. In his remarks on CNN, he criticized environmentalists for dismissing nuclear power as an important part of the solution.

Confidants say McCain never stopped supporting action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But as a legislator with a lot of priorities, he gave his time to issues that seemed more likely to benefit from his attention. “Going all the way back to when he ran for president, he’s always been an advocate for action concerning climate change,” says Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general who has long advised McCain and co-chaired his 2010 campaign. “He did that even in Republican primaries when it wasn’t that popular. I think it’s just a matter of: He’s got a lot of things on his plate. He’s never changed his position.”

Given the entrenched partisan divide on the issue, a climate deal is unlikely in the near future. And it’s not yet clear how strongly McCain might push for action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

For future climate legislation to succeed, senators from both parties will have to come to an agreement, says Profeta: “I don’t think that deal is ripe though. You need some triggering event to allow people to come off hardened positions. I think in the end we will price carbon. I pray that Sen. McCain is part of it.”

Trump vs. Kim: Political theater or prelude to apocalypse?

, Detroit Free Press ColumnistPublished 6:00 a.m. ET Sept. 24, 2017 | Updated 11:35 a.m. ET Sept. 24, 2017

They hurl insults at each other like sweaty commuters consumed by road rage. The rest of us look on in confusion, unsure whether we are watching meaningless political theater or the realization of some apocalyptic biblical prophecy.

Kim Jong Un calls Donald Trump  “mentally deranged.” Trump responds that Kim is “obviously a madman.”

Practically everyone suspects that each man has a point. What we know for sure is that both control nuclear arsenals capable of wreaking destruction beyond anyone’s comprehension.

It has been going on all summer, this surreal spectacle of chest-thumping and name-calling. The prospect that Trump or Kim might actually do the things they have been threatening to do on an almost daily basis is so terrifying that the only response most of us can muster is to joke about it.

Dickerson: When lives are at stake, should it be a crime to look the other way?
Henderson: Michigan campaign finance rules make suckers of citizens

We understand that the sniper perched in the bell tower, the hacker who steals our financial data or the hurricane poised to pulverize a populous city are threats we have to do something about. In each case, there’s a list of actions those in harm’s way can take to make themselves at least a little less vulnerable.

But it’s unclear what ordinary residents of San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul or Pyongyang could do to protect themselves if Trump or Kim decided to unleash the fire and furythey are so fond of threatening in their tweets and propaganda videos. So we dismiss their bombast as the stuff of fantasy, like a science-fiction movie in which the protagonist travels across time or discovers that his spouse and children are really holograms.

Delusions of survival

For more than half a century, almost everyone with any responsibility for the deployment of nuclear weapons has shared the tacit understanding that their use would obliterate any meaningful distinction between belligerents and bystanders.

Distance and technological ingenuity might afford those at the periphery of a major nuclear exchange some temporary advantage. But in the long run, those privileged bystanders might end up envying those who had been instantly incinerated. (If global warming makes you anxious, then Google “nuclear winter” and learn what happens when climate change occurs so suddenly that no one has time to argue about it.)

What worries those trying to make sense of North Korea’s provocations is the possibility that Kim and his generals are either skeptical of that consensus or simply indifferent to the possibility that any nuclear exchange would end in North Korea’s annihilation.

Colin Powell at U-M:U.S. should ignore North Koreans when they shoot missiles
More: How would a nuclear bomb impact your city? Online tool lets you find out

There is anecdotal evidence to support both of these worrisome hypotheses. Evan Osnos, a veteran foreign correspondent who visited North Korea last month, says he was struck by North Koreans’ widespread conviction that a nuclear showdown with the U.S. would leave their country battered but intact.

“People go out of their way to tell you how comfortable they are with the idea of a nuclear exchange,” Osnos told interviewer Terri Gross in an interview after his return from Pyongyang.

“I had a conversation with a very smart and very alert, knowledgeable America analyst at the Foreign Ministry, a guy named Pak Song Il, whose job it is to analyze the United States, speaks extremely good English. And he said, ‘Look, we understand that a war would be devastating, but we’ve survived devastation twice in our recent history — the Korean War and then the famine of the mid-’90s which killed up to 3 million people.’
“And he said, ‘We would survive again.’

“And he took me down into the subway, which is built a hundred meters underground, twice the depth of the New York subway system, and he said, “This is where we would go in the event of a nuclear strike.’ He showed me the blast doors.”

Bruce Bennett, a Rand Corp. analyst who meets regularly with some of the most senior defectors to escape North Korea, likes to begin briefings with an even scarier anecdote dating to the early 1990s, when Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader and the first in the line of Kims that has ruled the country for decades, asked his most trusted military leaders what he should do if North Korea lost a war with the U.S.

“The North Korean military guys were all smart enough to know that it was a really good time to keep your mouth shut,” Bennett recalls in an overview published in the current edition of the Rand Review. “But his son, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader, spoke up and said, ‘If we lose, I will be sure to destroy the Earth. What good is the Earth without North Korea?’ ”

Trump poured gasoline on the paranoia when he asserted that North Korea’s current leader is “on a suicide mission,” suggesting that Kim’s provocations are not only likely to hasten his country’s annihilation but consciously designed to do so. If he’s right, we should probably stop arguing about Obamacare and eat more ice cream.

The confusion is mutual

The generals and analysts advising Trump seem less inclined to take such conspicuous displays of bravado at face value. They are proceeding on the optimistic assumption that Kim and the elite coterie that supports him are as interested in continuing to draw breath as anyone else, but have convinced themselves that the nuclear threat is the surest guarantee of both their country’s physical security and their own political power.

The Trump administration’s grown-ups want to believe they have counterparts in the North Korean intelligence community who are just as quick to discount the U.S. president’s public provocations as they are to dismiss Kim’s. But journalists who’ve visited North Korea say Trump’s tweets leave the Kim regime’s analysts just as puzzled about Washington’s intentions as U.S. strategists are about Pyongyang’s. You needn’t be paranoid to worry that either side’s miscalculation about the other’s motives could prove as dangerous as any overt military act.

When thinking about North Korea drives me to binge-eating, I like to contemplate ways the current crisis could end in something less dramatic than global catastrophe. Here are some of the more plausible ones:

The U.S. might have the capacity to disrupt Pyongyang’s breakneck schedule of tests and missile flights via cyber-measures or infrastructure sabotage that fall short of a conventional military attack. Such measures could covertly discourage Kim without providing a clear pretext for retaliatory action.

But this is a comforting scenario based on little more than conjecture. Bennett and others point out that such a strategy hinges on a combination of technical prowess and reliable intelligence difficult to secure in the world’s most opaque nation.

An ever-tightening vise of economic sanctions might convince North Korean elites and military leaders on whom Kim depends for support to replace his regime with one more eager to find accommodation with its neighbors.

But defectors say Kim’s well-publicized policy of brutality toward those suspected of subversion — the so-called three-generation rule, in which a disloyal official’s children and grandchildren are liable for offenses against the regime — discourages even the mildest dissent.

China might be persuaded to join U.S. allies in the Pacific to support containment measures that make North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons no scarier than, say, Pakistan’s.

But some U.S. analysts believe North Korea wants nuclear weapons not to defend its own territory, but to pursue its dream of reunifying the Korean peninsula.

For all its risks, the last scenario — a dug-in, nuclear-armed regime kept in line by the same threat of mutually assured destruction that deterred the U.S and the Soviet Union from annihilating each other through the Cold War era — may offer the best hedge against a war that leaves unprecedented carnage.

All we can be certain of now is that the well-being of millions on both sides of the Pacific depends on both sides remembering that no one should take their leaders’ public threats very seriously.

Trump administration quick to quell rumors that US will stay in Paris Climate Accord

[Sorry, it was only a rumor…]

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
September 20, 2017, 3:27:22 PM EDT

Rumors spread over the weekend that President Donald Trump will remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, in contrast to previous claims made by Trump that the United States would withdraw from the agreement.

Uncertainty arose about the U.S. stance on the climate agreement after American officials attended a meeting with climate ministers on Saturday in Montreal, Canada.

A European diplomat told reporters that a Trump administration envoy appeared to signal a softening stance.

Trump UN Climate

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

However, the Trump administration was quick to deny these statements.

“There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said. “As the president has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country.”

Trump announced in June that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement, but may be open to “renegotiate” the accord on terms more favorable to the U.S.

The Paris agreement was among one of the many topics discussed at the United Nations General Assembly this week, as Trump made his address.

On the sidelines of the U.N. meetings on Monday, Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, met with about a dozen climate ministers from large-economy nations to discuss the U.S. position on the Paris agreement.

“I made the president’s position unambiguous, to where the president stands and where the administration stands on Paris,” Cohn said to reporters following the meeting. “We reaffirmed the president’s statement that he made in the Rose Garden, and we continue to reinforce what the president is saying.”

Trump Paris Climate

In this Thursday, June 1, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The Paris Climate Accord is an agreement made in 2015 between nearly 200 nations pledging to voluntary mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels over the course of the next century.

It takes a country four years to withdraw from the agreement. If the U.S. follows through on the pullout, it will be a part of the agreement until two days after Trump’s first term ends.

The decision for the U.S. to pullout of the agreement has been met with great criticism, from both U.S. citizens and U.S. allies. There are multiple impacts of the pullout on the U.S. and its relation in international affairs.

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Nearly 70 percent of registered voters believe that the U.S. should participate in the Paris Climate Agreement, according to a study produced by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Jerry Brown of California created the U.S. Climate Alliance in response to the U.S. federal government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement. This bi-partisan coalition of states, which now includes 13 states and Puerto Rico, is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement.

The members of the alliance have spoken out about their stance and have signed a petition urging President Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement.

State climate alliance

In this May 24, 2017, file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during the joint Netherlands and California Environmental Protection Agency conference called, “Climate is Big Business,” at the Presidio in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Many foreign leaders have spoken out on their disapproval of Trump’s decision.

Most recently, the French President Emmanuel Macron used his inaugural speech at the United Nations General Assembly this week to rebuke many of the points that Trump made in his speech just two hours earlier, including his position on the climate agreement.

“Our challenges are global, and more than ever we need multilateralism,” Macron said during his address to the assembly. “Walls don’t protect us; what protects us is our joint willingness to change history. We are all linked.”

Macron also ruled out any renegotiation of the Paris agreement, and said the rest of the world will go ahead with or without the U.S.

Foreign anti trump climate

Greenpeace protesters stand in silence with banners outside the U.S. embassy in Madrid, Spain, Friday, June 2, 2017. The protesters gathered at the gates of the United States embassy in the Spanish capital to protest President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the world’s second-largest carbon dioxide emitter out of the Paris climate agreement. Small banners read ‘Climate SOS’ and ‘We’ll go ahead without you.’ (AP Photo/Paul White)

Foreign anti trump climate

The top candidates of the Green Party for the Germany’s parliamentary elections, Katrin Goering-Eckardt, center left, and Cem Ozdemir, center, protest against US President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement in front the the US embassy in Berlin, Germany, Friday, June 2, 2017. (Britta Pedersen/dpa via AP)

Furthermore, the recent occurrence of back-to-back extreme hurricanes, Irma and Harvey, brought the impact of climate change into the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.

“This season fits a pattern: Changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a viscous cycle of shock and recovery,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Extreme weather linked to climate change has an impact around the globe ranging from floods in southern Asia to landslides and droughts in Africa. The world must develop adaptation measures in response and must work together to reduce carbon emissions, according to Guterres.

Other nations chimed in to stress the need for developing strategies to combat the potential risks of climate change.

“For many, climate change is a matter that can be subject to scientific debate, but for others, like us, the Caribbeans, it’s an atmospheric phenomenon of a ferocity and an intensity that we’ve never seen before,” Danilo Medina, president of the Dominican Republic, said.

AP DR Thurs eve

A home flattened by Hurricane Irma lies in a pile in Nagua, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees. (AP Photo/Tatiana Fernandez)

The recent extreme weather events have raised the question of whether Trump has changed his view on climate change. Trump has notoriously called climate change a “hoax” that was created by and for the Chinese in a tweet.

When pressed whether he had changed his views on climate change, Trump avoided the question and contradicted previous statements that he made about the storms.

“We’ve had bigger storms than this,” Trump said to reporters on Sept. 14, after touring damage from Hurricane Irma on Florida’s west coast.

“If you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we’ve had storms over the years that have been bigger than this,” Trump said. “If you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were as big or bigger. So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms, but if you go back into the ’30s and ’40s, and you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, OK?”

This statement is in contraction to earlier statements and tweets.

Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way,if possible. Federal G is ready!

The link between the recent hurricanes and climate change is not yet fully understood. Scientists have different approaches to understanding the linkage between hurricanes and climate change, according to a Scientific American article published by Michael Mann, Thomas Peterson and Susan Hassol.

There are two fundamentally different ways of addressing the role of climate change in extreme weather events. These different perspectives can contribute to public confusion.

The first approach is to account for the simple physical processes and what role they may be playing in hurricanes.

“There are certain indisputable linkages that we can talk about immediately because they have already been vetted in general rather than for any specific storm,” the Scientific American article read.

These physical processes include higher sea surface temperatures (SST) contributing to the flooding power of a hurricane and sea level rise contributing to the coastal flooding associated with recent major hurricanes.

“The seemingly modest 1 foot of sea level rise off the New York City and New Jersey coast made a Sandy-like storm surge of 14 feet far more likely, and led to 25 additional square miles of flooding and several billion extra dollars of damage,” the article read.

Superstorm Sandy

In this Nov. 15, 2012, file photo, Dean Rasinya poses with a street sign for Irving Walk salvaged from wreckage in Queens, New York. A fire destroyed more than 100 homes in the area during Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The other approach used involves a climatological “CSI,” running simulations of a climate model both with and without the impact of human-generated greenhouse gas increases. This is used to help detect a trend and attribute an event in part to those increases.

These approaches complement each other, as they add different perspectives and tools to determine the relationship between human activity and extreme weather events.

“There is much that we know based on physics, and we should state those things clearly and immediately, as they can provide insights that can help guide people as they begin to recover and plan for the future,” the Scientific American article concluded.

recent NOAA report found that it is “premature to conclude that human activities … have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.”

However, the report also found that human activity “may have already caused changes” and that global warming “will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average,” “lead to an increase in the occurrence of very intense tropical cyclone(s),” and “will likely cause tropical cyclones to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day ones.”

Donald Trump Jr. wants to give up Secret Service protection  

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/donald-trump-jr-wants-to-give-up-secret-service-protection/2017/09/18/2a0e7e72-9cd3-11e7-9c8d-cf053ff30921_story.html?utm_term=.ce6f3aac2202

Donald Trump Jr., seen during a break from a closed interview in September with staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the committee’s ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
 September 18 at 10:52 PM
Donald Trump Jr. has asked to be removed from Secret Service protection, telling friends he wants more privacy, according to two people briefed on the decision.

It’s a rare move for a member of the president’s family to forgo a security detail, in part because adult children are counseled by the Secret Service that they are quickly seen as targets for those railing against their famous parents.

One close friend of the president’s son said Trump Jr. has been talking for weeks about waiving the 24-hour protection that Secret Service agents provide him, his wife and their five children. But it was unclear Monday night whether he had requested his wife and children be dropped from protection. Secret Service spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan declined to comment on whether Trump Jr. and his family were no longer receiving protection.

“To ensure the safety and security of our protectees and their families, we will not confirm who is currently receiving Secret Service protection,” Milhoan said.

Trump Jr.’s wish to quit Secret Service protection was first reported by the New York Times on Monday night.

Several former Secret Service officials strongly recommended that the president’s son reconsider his choice, saying it could put him in jeopardy.

Jonathan Wackrow, a former member of President Barack Obama’s detail and now an executive of a risk-management company in New York, called the decision “shocking.”

“In today’s global risk environment, waiving this detail poses great danger to him and to his family,” Wackrow said. “What he is becoming potentially is a target of opportunity.

“People who want to lash out at the president are going to seek that path of least resistance,” he added. “This decision is negligent.”

Trump Jr.’s push to eliminate his 24-hour protection comes at a time when the extended Trump family has faced steady criticism for straining the resources of the Secret Service. The agency’s workload for security personnel has demonstrably grown under Trump, who has five children and nine grandchildren. The Secret Service now protects 42 people around the clock, 11 more than it did under Obama. The Secret Service’s list of people to protect under Trump includes 18 members of the president’s family. The Secret Service acknowledged it is strained to pay its agents overtime based on the demands of multiple round-the-clock details.

Wackrow said he is sympathetic to the hassles of security. Trump Jr. and his wife have struggled with the logistical headache of helping coordinate the five separate details of their children. Rich Staropoli, a former member of the Trump administration and former Secret Service agent, said one frustration has been that the Secret Service has been sending a rotating set of temporary agents to staff the details of Trump Jr.’s young children.

“Every few weeks they get new people,” Staropoli said. “There are all these new people coming and going. The kids don’t like that. They can’t get comfortable with someone they don’t know.”

Trump Jr. also privately fumed about an incident involving his son Donald III’s detail agents in March. The president’s grandson was being chauffeured by agents in an SUV. He awoke to find two agents had been taking pictures of themselves with him while he had been sleeping.

Protection for adult children is automatically provided, but they can legally turn it down. Ron Reagan declined Secret Service protection during his father’s second term as president.

McMaster says no redo on Paris climate deal decision

 
 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/17/mcmaster-says-no-redo-on-paris-climate-deal-decision-suggests-bannon-tried-to-manipulate-trump/?utm_term=.e8b03e90a9ff
 September 17 at 12:28 PM

National security adviser H.R. McMaster and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speak at a White House news briefing Friday. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

National security adviser H.R. McMaster denied Sunday that President Trump is reconsidering his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord but said the door remains open to a better agreement down the road.

“That’s a false report,” McMaster said of published reports over the weekend that the administration might not pull out of the deal after all and might seek new terms instead.

“The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it’s a bad deal for the American people and it’s a bad deal for the environment,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Wall Street Journal and Agence France-Presse had cited a top European climate official as saying that the United States was seeking ways to remain a party to the deal. The White House denied those reports in a statement Saturday, and McMaster underscored the U.S. position Sunday.

“The president’s ears are open if, at some point, they decide they can come forward with an agreement that addresses the president’s very legitimate concerns with Paris,” McMaster said.

Trump had announced in June that the United States would begin a three-year process of withdrawal. He said then that he could revisit the decision if the United States could renegotiate terms he sees as unfair.

The U.S. withdrawal was seen as a policy victory for then-adviser Stephen K. Bannon and his deep suspicion of international agreements and obligations. McMaster’s disagreements with Bannon over matters of policy, access to Trump and other issues are well known, and McMaster acted to reduce Bannon’s role. Last month, Trump dismissed Bannon in a White House shake-up.

Fox host Chris Wallace noted during the interview the bad blood that had existed between McMaster and Bannon and asked McMaster whether the Trump administration is better off without Bannon.

McMaster answered carefully.

“The administration is better off when we can serve the president by integrating and coordinating across all of our departments and agencies with our key allies and partners and to present the president with multiple options and then, based on his decisions, to help the president implement these policies that prioritize protecting and advancing the interests of the American people,” McMaster began.

“And so what’s important is to have an inclusive process, not to try to manipulate into a particular decision or to advance your own agenda.”

Pressed on whether Bannon was guilty of such manipulation or ulterior motives, McMaster denied that there was an active feud between the two men and repeated his goal of open discussion of competing viewpoints.

“There were some who tried to operate outside that process for their own narrow agendas, and that did not serve the president well.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” McMaster appeared to leave slightly more room for a reconsideration of U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.

“What the president has said is that we are withdrawing from the Paris accord. He left the door open to reentering at some later time if there can be a better deal for the United States,” the national security adviser said.

“He’s open to any discussions that will help us improve the environment, that will help us ensure energy security and will advance our prosperity and the prosperity of American workers and American businesses,” McMaster added.

When host George Stephanopolous asked whether “it is possible the United States would stay in if you can get a new agreement,” McMaster replied, “If there’s an agreement that benefits the American people, certainly.”

 Play Video 0:51
Tillerson says Trump is ‘willing to work with partners’ on Paris climate accord
Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Sept. 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson criticized the Paris climate accord for being “out of balance” for America and China, but said the Trump administration would look for ways to work with other countries on tackling climate “under the right conditions.” (Reuters)

 On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson criticized the Paris accord as being “out of balance” for the United States and China but said the administration is seeking “other ways” to work with other countries on tackling climate change “under the right conditions.”

Tillerson said the administration is “willing to work with partners in the Paris climate accord if we can construct a set of terms that we believe is fair and balanced for the American people and recognizes our economy, our economic interests, relative to others, in particular the second-largest economy in the world, China. If you look at those targets in terms of the Paris climate accord, they were just really out of balance for the two largest economies.”

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The plan, Tillerson said, is to “consider other ways in which we can work with partners in the Paris climate accord.”

“We want to be productive, we want be helpful,” he added.

Asked whether the United States could remain in the agreement, Tillerson also appeared to leave a small window of possibility.

“I think under the right conditions, the president has said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is a challenging issue,” he said.

White House says it’s too early to say if climate change helped fuel strong storms

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/09/us/hurricane-irma-florida-latest

The Trump administration would need to conduct a “trend analysis” to determine a potential connection between this year’s spate of hurricanes and climate change, a top White House adviser said on Monday.

Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser to President Trump, told reporters that it was too early to say whether this year’s storms were related to warming global temperatures, adding that further study was required.

“Causality is something outside of my ability to analyze right now,” Bossert said in response to a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta.

He said that hurricane seasons were “cyclical,” and noted that scientists had accurately predicted this year would bring larger average storms.

“We’ll have to do a trend analysis at a later date,” Bossert said.

He said the Trump administration was mindful of predictions of future floods, and doesn’t want federal dollars used to rebuild structures that will come under increasing threat from rising sea levels.

“We continue to take seriously climate change — not the cause of it, but the things that we observe,” Bossert said.

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort Ordered to Evacuate

by Rachel Lewis

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/storm/donald-trumps-mar-a-lago-resort-ordered-to-evacuate/ar-AArvoGc?ocid=sf

© Joe Raedle – Getty Images The Mar-a-Lago resort.

President Donald Trump‘s seaside resort Mar-a-Lago and the surrounding barrier islands have been ordered to evacuate as the ferocious Hurricane Irma approaches Florida.

Palm Beach County officials ordered that residents of the islands and low-lying areas should start to leave by 10 a.m. on Friday, the Miami Herald reported.

Around 125,000 people are thought to live in the area. All of Florida is under a state of emergency and the Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties have also been ordered to evacuate.

The President has not commented on the evacuation of the private club, but he did tweet to say that Irma was of “epic proportion” and told his followers to “be safe and get out of its way, if possible.”

Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way,if possible. Federal G is ready!

An 11-bedroom mansion owned by Donald Trump in St. Martin and the luxury home of Richard Branson on the Virgin Islands have already been destroyed by the category 5 storm.

Hurricane Irma has killed at least 14 people as it tore through the Caribbean and is expected to arrive in Florida as a category 4 storm on Sunday morning.

This article was originally published on TIME.com