President Trump on Monday slammed an Axios report claiming he has suggested detonating nuclear bombs in the eyes of hurricanes to stop the storms from reaching the U.S.
“The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous,” Mr. Trump tweeted from the Group of Seven summit in France. “I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!”
According to a report Sunday evening, Mr. Trump has raised the idea at least twice to disrupt the damaging storms while they’re in the middle of the ocean.
“I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” the web-based news organization quotes Mr. Trump as saying, citing a source who was present during the remarks.
“They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” the source paraphrased Mr. Trump as elaborating, Axios reported.
The briefer to whom Mr. Trump made the suggestion “was knocked back on his heels,” Axios quoted the source in the room as saying. “You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, ‘What the f—-? What do we do with this?’”
Asked how the briefer specifically replied to Mr. Trump’s query, the source in the room told Axios it was with words to the effect of, “Sir, we’ll look into that.”
This was not the first time Mr. Trump has suggested in private meetings that he thinks hurricanes can be fought off with nuclear weapons, Axios reported.
Axios cited a 2017 National Security Council memo saying that Mr. Trump asked whether the administration should bomb hurricanes to stop them from hitting the U.S., although Axios added that the memo doesn’t specify the word “nuclear.”
The White House declined to give an official response to Axios on “private discussions that the president may or may not have had with his national security team.”
But a senior administration official who had been briefed on the suggestion said the president was merely pushing aides to think outside the box.
“What people near the president do is they say ‘I love a president who asks questions like that, who’s willing to ask tough questions.’ … It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up. For me, alarm bells weren’t going off when I heard about it, but I did think somebody is going to use this to feed into ‘the president is crazy’ narrative,” the official told Axios.
According to Axios, scientific talk about disrupting the eye of a hurricane with nuclear blasts dates back to the Eisenhower era. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now labels the idea as a popular myth and says the science just doesn’t add up — nuclear weapons are too small, not to mention dangerous in terms of radiation and fallout even if used at sea.
One of the Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination could hardly believe it, commenting with three words while tweeting the link to the Axios article.
“Dude’s gotta go,” tweeted Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.