Following a July 20th meeting with Trump and other top aides in July, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was overheard calling the president a “f*cking moron.”
The meeting was held a day following a similar meeting in the White House situation room, where it apparently became clear to those in attendance that Trump did not have a full grasp of US nuclear security policies that have been in place for over 70 years. At the Pentagon meeting, Trump was shown a slide which depicted the reduction of US nuclear warheads since the 60’s, when the US stockpile was at its peak. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.
According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. Trump was apparently unaware of the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) held with the Soviet Union which led to treaties reducing the number of nuclear arms. Trump also apparently did not understand the global implications of increasing the US arsenal as it relates to NATO partners and other nuclear powers such as China, India and Pakistan.
The meeting was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, Undersecretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Stephen Bannon, who was then Trump’s chief strategist, Jared Kushner who is a senior adviser to the president and Reince Preibus who was chief of staff. Not in attendance was Rick Perry, the brain trust Trump assigned to be in charge of the US nuclear arsenal.
Details of the July 20 meeting shed light on tensions among the president, members of his Cabinet and the uniformed leadership of the Pentagon stemming from vastly different world views, experiences and knowledge bases. The meeting was reported as being “difficult and tense” at times. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind hear Tillerson say that Trump is a “f*cking moron”.Tweet