NBC: Will Military Leaders ‘Tackle’ Trump, ‘Lock Him in a Room’ to Prevent War?

Interviewing former CIA Director John Brennan on Thursday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer seemed to suggest that military leaders would launch a coup d’etat against President Trump in order to prevent nuclear war with North Korea. In response, the Obama administration official didn’t discount the notion.

“Over the summer, the President said that he would unleash ‘fire and fury’ on North Korea....is this a president who doesn’t understand the gravity and the seriousness of that issue?,” Lauer asked early in the exchange. Brennan warned: “I think his comments have been rather provocative, and it has served to increase tensions, not to de-escalate them.”

 

 

Fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie fretted: “...you said at a forum last night that you thought the chances of some kind of military conflict with North Korea had now risen to either 1 in 4 or 1 in 5, so 20-25% chance that that could happen. Is that because of North Korea’s actions, because of the U.S.’s actions and rhetoric, or both?” Ranting against the President, Brennan declared:

I think it’s a combination of the two. I think the caustic and bellicose comments that are coming out of Washington, and Mr. Trump on his tweets, really has led to an escalation in tensions. And I’m concerned that there could be some type of clash between South Korean and North Korean forces that could escalate.

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Following Brennan’s dire prediction, Lauer raised the possibility of Trump being physically restrained and detained in the event of a conflict:

Well, let me ask you this, and I almost feel weird asking you this, but you’ve read the same stories that I’ve read. You know the key players around the President in Mattis and in McMaster and John Kelly. The stories are going around out there that if the President inches closer to some kind of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea, that those guys are gonna do something. They’re going to lock him in a room, they’re gonna tackle him. You’re smiling, but these are the stories that are out there. And that they will prevent him from carrying out any action that would cause that. How do you – is that all nonsense?

Brennan seemed to confirm Lauer’s outlandish scenario: “No, I think the military leaders...know the risks of escalation. They know just how dangerous the situation is and I think they are governors on the President’s instincts to continue to try to intimidate and bully.”

Lauer pressed: “You’re technically not answering the question. Would they take some action to prevent the President from carrying out an order?” Brennan replied: “The President has unilateral authority to be able to authorize military action....Secretary Mattis can either try to talk him out of it, disagree with it, carry it out, or not.”

The morning show anchor touted: “Because in July you said it is the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry out some of those orders that are inconsistent with what this country is all about.” Brennan explained that he was referring to “the firing of [former FBI Director] Jim Comey,” and worried: “We are a country of laws, and sometimes I feel that Mr. Trump feels that it is Trump’s laws that trump others.”

Guthrie wondered: “If you’d been in your old job and you had been given an order that you thought was dangerous to this country, would you have flouted an order?” After saying that he would have resigned over a presidential order to resume waterboarding of terror suspects, Guthrie urged: “Do you think Mattis and Kelly and Dunford and McMaster would be willing to do the same if circumstances warrant it?”

He assured her: “They are patriots, all of them. And they understand the gravity of the situation. They understand the gravity, and I don’t believe Mr. Trump does.”

Wrapping up the softball interview, Lauer teed up Brennan to slam the President one last time: “Real quickly, based on what you know about the situation in Iran, if the President rips up that Iran nuclear deal, does he risk, in the short term, owning a nuclear Iran?” Brennan predictably agreed: “I think he runs the risk of escalated tensions in the Gulf that could redound to our detriment and to potential risk to U.S. military in the region.”

One topic that was completely ignored in the five-minute segment was the recent bombshell revelation of a Russian bribery plot being uncovered by the FBI before the Obama administration approved a nuclear deal with Moscow.

That scandal wasn’t mentioned because the NBC hosts were too busy imagining an overthrow of the current president.  

The biased exchange was brought to viewers by Downey, Subaru, and Burlington.

Here is a full transcript of the October 19 interview:

7:05 AM ET

MATT LAUER: John Brennan served as director of the CIA under President Obama. He joins us exclusively now. Director Brennan, it’s really nice to have you here. Thank you very much.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Good morning, sir.

JOHN BRENNAN: Good morning, Matt. Good morning, Savannah.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Fmr. CIA Director Speaks Out; Brennan on Trump, North Korea & Nat’l Security]

GUTHRIE: The reason this whole subject of condolence calls is coming up is because we lost four American service members in Niger. Senator McCain has said he wants more information about what exactly happened. Is there anything about the circumstances, as they’re known publicly right now – where these soldiers were operating, the conditions under which they were operating, the fact that one of them apparently was left behind – is there anything that raises questions in your mind?

BRENNAN: Well, the United States military has been involved in providing assistance to a lot of counterterrorism forces, military forces, particularly in the Sahel, where terrorist groups reside. There are questions about why they were so far forward with the Niger military. Because going into those places, it really makes it difficult to help the group if they are ambushed. And it seems like they were ambushed by a larger group. So I know that Secretary Mattis and others are going to be looking into the details of this and how the approval process, you know, were made. But there are questions about what was going on.

LAUER: Let me ask you about North Korea. Over the summer, the President said that he would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea. At the U.N. he said if we’re forced to defend ourselves or our allies he’ll have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea. He said his Secretary of State Mr. Tillerson should stop wasting his time in negotiating. As you hear those things, based on what you know about that situation, do you think this is the President being that tough negotiator that he promised his supporters he would be, or is this a president who doesn’t understand the gravity and the seriousness of that issue?

BRENNAN: I think it’s both. I think he’s trying to demonstrate that he is tough, and he’s trying to intimidate opponents. But at the same time, he is not experienced at all in international brinkmanship and on these issues. So I think his comments have been rather provocative, and it has served to increase tensions, not to de-escalate them. And I’m hoping that Rex Tillerson is gonna be able to continue some of his efforts to try to address these issues behind the scenes.

GUTHRIE: It’s interesting because you said at a forum last night that you thought the chances of some kind of military conflict with North Korea had now risen to either 1 in 4 or 1 in 5, so 20-25% chance that that could happen. Is that because of North Korea’s actions, because of the U.S.’s actions and rhetoric, or both?

BRENNAN: I think it’s a combination of the two. I think the caustic and bellicose comments that are coming out of Washington, and Mr. Trump on his tweets, really has led to an escalation in tensions. And I’m concerned that there could be some type of clash between South Korean and North Korean forces that could escalate.

LAUER: Well, let me ask you this, and I almost feel weird asking you this, but you’ve read the same stories that I’ve read. You know the key players around the President in Mattis and in McMaster and John Kelly. The stories are going around out there that if the President inches closer to some kind of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea, that those guys are gonna do something. They’re going to lock him in a room, they’re gonna tackle him. You’re smiling, but these are the stories that are out there. And that they will prevent him from carrying out any action that would cause that. How do you – is that all nonsense?

BRENNAN: No, I think the military leaders, current and former, Mattis, Kelly – also Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs – they know the risks of escalation. They know just how dangerous the situation is and I think they are governors on the President’s instincts to continue to try to intimidate and bully.

LAUER: You’re technically not answering the question. Would they take some action to prevent the President from carrying out an order?

BRENNAN: The President has unilateral authority to be able to authorize military action. That order goes through Secretary Mattis. Secretary Mattis can either try to talk him out of it, disagree with it, carry it out, or not.

LAUER: Because in July you said it is the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry out some of those orders that are inconsistent with what this country is all about.

BRENNAN: And I was talking about the context of some – like the firing of Jim Comey and the efforts by Mr. Trump and others to try to, I think, delay and to put obstacles in the way of some of the investigations that are underway. I think that has to go forward. We are a country of laws, and sometimes I feel that Mr. Trump feels that it is Trump’s laws that trump others.

GUTHRIE: If you’d been in your old job and you had been given an order that you thought was dangerous to this country, would you have flouted an order?

BRENNAN: I’d have to make a decision. Like if I was asked to renew waterboarding, I would have said, “No, I’m not going to do it and you’re going to have to fire me.” That would have been plain and simple for me.

GUTHRIE: Do you think Mattis and Kelly and Dunford and McMaster would be willing to do the same if circumstances warrant it?

BRENNAN: It all depends on the circumstances. They are patriots, all of them. And they understand the gravity of the situation. They understand the gravity, and I don’t believe Mr. Trump does.

LAUER: Real quickly, based on what you know about the situation in Iran, if the President rips up that Iran nuclear deal, does he risk, in the short term, owning a nuclear Iran?

BRENNAN: Well, he certainly has another issue and another problem. He also alienates a lot of our partners and allies that were part of that agreement. And I think he runs the risk of escalated tensions in the Gulf that could redound to our detriment and to potential risk to U.S. military in the region.

LAUER: Will you stay for the next hour?

[LAUGHTER]

LAUER: We have a lot to talk to you about.

GUTHRIE: Sir, thank you.

LAUER: John, thank you so much, great to have you here.

BRENNAN: Thank you, appreciate it.

GUTHRIE: Appreciate it.


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