Trump denies asking why nukes aren't used

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump Right way and wrong way Five things to know about the elephant trophies controversy MORE’s presidential campaign denied a report on Wednesday that the Republican presidential nominee had three times asked a foreign policy adviser why the U.S. could not use its vast nuclear arsenal.

“There is no truth to this,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Hill in an email, as the anecdote from MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough gained traction on the internet.

ADVERTISEMENT
According to Scarborough, Trump thrice questioned a pillar of U.S. nuclear policy during an hour-long briefing with an unidentified foreign policy expert at some point in the last several months.

“If we have them, why can’t we use them?” Trump asked, according to the “Morning Joe” host.

The claim plays into the hands of Trump’s critics, who have routinely questioned his fitness for the Oval Office and warned that his many unorthodox foreign policy positions would make the world less safe. Decades of policy in Washington has been focused on reducing the globe's supply of nuclear weapons and preventing them from ever being used, as opposed to wielding them as a threat against the country's adversaries.

On Tuesday, President Obama called Trump “unfit to serve as president,” in his most blistering remarks yet about the GOP nominee.

“There have been Republican presidents with whom I disagreed with, but I didn’t have a doubt that they could function as president,” Obama said, while pointing to former nominees Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Ad encourages GOP senator to vote 'no' on tax bill MORE (Ariz.).

“But that’s not the situation here.”

While Trump’s campaign is denying that he posed the questions during the briefing, his positions on nuclear policy have deviated from the mainstream on several counts.

For one, Trump has openly suggested that major powers such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia obtain nuclear weapons, in what experts say could lead to a dramatic proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Trump later appeared to walk the statement back, though his position has been hard to pin down.

Separately, the GOP nominee has refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe or against extremists such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, something practically unheard of in modern American political rhetoric.

"I don't want to take cards off the table; I'd never do that,” Trump said in March.

Trump has characterized the radical departures from national security norms as in part an insistence on remaining unpredictable and in part a refusal to abide by what he has described as failing policies that have weakened U.S. stature overseas. The positions have caused anxiety among defense and security experts on both sides of the aisle, who are some of his most prominent critics.