On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough continued on his crusade against Trump by calling for Republicans on Capitol Hill to consider taking potentially unconstitutional legislative action that would seriously hinder President Trump’s power to command America’s nuclear defense forces. In so doing, Joe painted Trump as a genocidal maniac on the brink of destroying the whole world.
The show started out with a brief clip from a Morning Joe segment first aired in August 2016 in which Scarborough claimed that an anonymous “foreign policy expert” told him that Trump had repeatedly asked that same source: “why can’t we use [nuclear weapons]?”
The panel then launched straight into a discussion of a new NBC News report that asserts that Trump expressed interest in procuring a great deal more nuclear weapons for U.S. arsenals during a briefing that he attended at the Pentagon on July 20th of this year. Trump’s comments apparently came after he learned that America has been significantly scaling down its stockpiles of nuclear weapons over the past several decades. According to the same report, however, Trump was convinced by his advisors not to undertake a nuclear weapons expansion mainly because of practical and legal barriers to obtaining more nuclear weapons. (The titular claim of this report has already been denied by both Secretary Mattis and the Pentagon's official spokespeople.)
Nevertheless, Scarborough and the panel immediately not only took this new reporting at face value, but they went far astray from NBC's original claims and interpreted them as "more evidence" that Trump wants to launch a nuclear war that will kill millions of people. Describing the supposed conversation that he reported on in August, Scarborough went on at length about his fears:
It was chilling and, of course, right after that, that's when you delivered your warning to the Republicans first and then to Americans who would vote for him, saying, if you vote for him, this was right, I think this was during the Republican National Convention or right after, at that time he was a candidate and a lot of people weren't giving him a chance to win, but you still issued your warning. And I can tell you the foreign policy expert I spoke with afterwards was rattled and the impression was, my god, the conclusion was: my god, could you ever imagine this guy getting his hands on the nuclear arsenal? And this, Mika, actually, here we are over a year later, and he does have his hands on the nuclear arsenal and he is still, instead of disturbing top foreign experts in America, it's now his Secretary of State and everybody else around him that leave badly shaken, calling him a moron and worse for not understanding, for not understanding defense policy and the consequences of nuclear war. So, you know, here we are, over a year later and this is what we have. And now I think it's up for Congress to figure out a way to actually slow down the process and anyway 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.
A bit later into the first hour of the show, Scarborough repeated his call to hamper Trump’s power to command our nuclear forces (a power that ultimately emanates from the President’s duties as commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces under Article II, Section II of the Constitution) and specifically directed Senate Republicans to take action. Joe even called for looking at removing Trump from office if the President did not cooperate:
Why, Mika, every Republican Senator on Capitol Hill has the record before them. What we said on our show last August, what Willie was talking about from I think 1984, what Donald Trump said on Hardball during the heat of the campaign, where, again, he said: if we have these nuclear weapons, why can't we use them? Calling for a tenfold increase in nuclear weapons, having the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill saying Donald Trump's erratic words and actions are leading us towards World War III, could lead us towards World War III. They are not pushing back to that reality. So my question is, at what point do they step forward as a delegation and do what Barry Goldwater did at the White House in 1974 and told Richard Nixon it was over? They don't have to go over and tell Donald Trump that it is over. But, a delegation of Republicans need to go over to the White House and tell the President either you assure us that the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee in the United States Senate is wrong or we are going to take immediate action to limit your ability to launch nuclear weapons. And it won't be what General Hayden said last year, it will no longer be a system that is built more for speed than for rationality. These Republicans Senators in the middle of October 2017 have that responsibility for millions and millions of Americans and others across the globe. And if they can't do that, then there's something called the 25th Amendment that they're going to have to start looking at. This is not acceptable as the status quo. We have the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill saying the President of the United States could be leading us towards nuclear war. And Republican Senators remain silent.
Before directly addressing the reckless course of action that Joe advocated for, it is worth pointing out that his summary of what Trump said to Chris Matthews on Hardball during the campaign last year was not accurate at all. What Trump actually made pretty clear on that program was that he would never categorically rule out using nuclear weapons as a foreign policy tool and suggested that they might need to be used against any power that tries to nuke the United States, including groups like ISIS. What Trump said was quite grim, but also a reality of modern warfare given the fact that nuclear proliferation over much of the world means that the United States has to both possess and be openly willing to use nuclear weapons at any time against any existential threat to the country precisely for the purpose of deterring anyone from ever using their nukes. Joe’s proposal to limit the President’s power to make our deterrence policy a reality completely disregarded this harsh truth of international politics.
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In the second hour of the show, Morning Joe invited on Republican Congressman Dan Donovan [NY], to discuss, in part, Senator Corker’s recent comments accusing Trump of aggravating circumstances in such a way that it might lead to World War III. With the apparent desire to get another Republican in Congress on the record supporting the notion that Trump would cause such a devastating global conflict, host Mika Brzezinski prodded the Congressman for his thoughts on Corker’s statements:
BRZEZINSKI: So what we’d like to also ask you about is Senator Corker's comments about the President potentially bringing us toward the brink of World War III, that he's concerning. And also it's not a question of trust in the generals, it's, I think, at this point a question about his intellectual and emotional capacity to lead. So what is your response to Bob Corker's comments?
REP. DONOVAN: You know, I don't know where that comes from. I think we're pointed [sic] a finger, the real devil, the real villain in this, is the leader of North Korea, who’s been launching rockets over Japan, some of them landing in the Sea of Japan. He’s, you know, in the past administration, we had this patient waiting strategy, which certainly emboldened him. And I think the President has taken a stance, I think he’s, again, making sure that America’s a world leader here. That evil person in North Korea is not just a threat to the United States. He's a threat to China, he’s a threat to the Korean peninsula, he’s a threat to our European allies, he’s a threat to, he’s a threat to the entire globe. I mean, the President had President Xi from China down in Mar-a-Lago earlier this year speaking to him about needing the help of the Chinese to put this to rest and stop the violence and the threats that are coming out of North Korea. So, I think he’s taken a leadership role in this and he's looking at allies and looking at some people that we have some differences in [sic].
BRZEZINSKI: I know, but Congressman, so, with all due respect, my question was about Senator Corker,-
REP. DONOVAN: [interjecting] Right, and so I-
BRZEZINSKI: -are you saying that he is not, are you saying that his comments are not credible?
REP. DONOVAN: No, I don't know where Senator Corker's comments are coming from. I’m on the Foreign, I’m on the Foreign,-
BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] Well he's head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee so he has insight he’s sharing.
REP. DONOVAN: -and I'm on the Foreign Affairs committee, and I’m on the Foreign Affairs committee in the House, and that hasn't come from our leader. So, I don't know what Corker, Senator Corker's basing it on. I'm not saying that he’s, it's invalid. I just don't know what he's basing that on.
BRZEZINSKI: [puts on very skeptical face with some exasperation at Donovan’s remarks]
Good on Representative Donovan for introducing a thread of sanity into the conversation and clearly stating that the real threat is not Trump, but Kim Jong-un.
Although a foreign policy expert did come on later in the show to express his doubts about the efficacy of Scarborough’s presidential nuclear limitation policy, no one on Morning Joe ever explained the significance of how dangerous Scarborough’s suggestion really was.