Trump button tweet sparks backlash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE’s tweet that he commands a “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear launch button than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sparked a backlash while renewing fears about the possibility of nuclear war.

The warning has also prompted a number of Trump critics to again question the president’s fitness as commander in chief. 

Trump tweeted in response to a New Year’s Day statement from Kim about his own “nuclear button,” which came as South Korea took steps toward deescalating the situation by opening talks with Pyongyang. 


“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’” Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Lawmakers, national security experts and media figures, most of them already vocal critics of the president, voiced deep concern over Trump’s tweet, calling it rash and unnerving for a man who has thousands of nuclear weapons at his disposal while confronting an unpredictable, nuclear-armed enemy.

Democratic lawmakers called for a new measure that would require Trump to gain congressional approval for a preemptive nuclear strike against North Korea. 

“Congress needs to pass this Monday — on the first day of votes in 2018 — legislation restricting Trump’s ability to launch a preemptive nuclear strike without authorization,” tweeted Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal It's time to eliminate land-based nuclear missiles Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. 

Republicans and members of the administration have sometimes been put in difficult positions because of the president’s tweets, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project ACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Carville repeats prediction that Trump will drop out of race MORE (R-Ky.) has said that he wishes Trump would tweet less.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenThe Seila Law case: Liberty and political firing Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers MORE on Tuesday said “the president speaks for himself” in response to a question about the button tweet.

“I think we have to continue, as he said, to take the threat from North Korea very seriously,” Nielsen told reporters. “Certainly at DHS we're doing all we can to prepare for any possible scenario that would involve the homeland, whether it be from North Korea or any other nation state or terror-status area.”

Trump’s tweet on Tuesday night came at the end of a busy day on the social media platform for the president, though it followed a period of uncharacteristic silence from Trump on North Korea. Asked about Kim's remarks earlier this week, the president simply said, “We'll see.”

Trump’s tweets appeared to be part of an effort to thrust himself back into the spotlight after returning to Washington from vacation in Florida.

He fired off a barrage of tweets throughout the day on a litany of subjects: threatening to cut off aid to Pakistan and the Palestinians, calling for the imprisonment of a top aide to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarville repeats prediction that Trump will drop out of race What's behind Trump's slump? Americans are exhausted, for one thing Trump campaign reserves air time in New Mexico MORE, rejecting Democratic demands on immigration and claiming credit for the lack of commercial airline deaths in 2017. 

Immediately after his North Korea tweet, Trump announced he would hand out awards next Monday for “THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA” and directed viewers to tune into Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News. 

The president threatened Kim just minutes after Fox News aired a segment about his speech, in which the North Korean leader claimed he has nuclear weapons that could reach the U.S. 

Some of Trump’s fiercest critics went as far as to say the president’s tone and temperament were enough to warrant his removal from office. 

“This Tweet alone is grounds for removal from office under the 25th Amendment. This man should not have nukes,” tweeted Richard Painter, who worked as an ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. 

The 25th Amendment of the Constitution allows for the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" and remove him. It has never been invoked. 

Others said the message violated Twitter’s terms of service and called on the social media platform to block Trump’s account.

“You can save the world by not allowing threats that will end up killing millions of people's lives,” the singer tweeted at Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. “This is scary & ridiculous... Publishing global death threats on twitter isn't ‘freedom of speech.’”

CNN’s Brian Stelter raised the possibility of a terms-of-service violation during a Tuesday night appearance on the network, and also suggested the behavior would be treated much differently if another world leader did the same thing.  

“If this were the leader of Germany or China or Brazil, what would we say?” Stelter asked. “How would we cover these tweets? We would say these are the messages from a person who is not well, from a leader who is not fit for office.”

Twitter told The Hill the message did not violate its rules.

Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesSEC's Clayton demurs on firing of Manhattan US attorney he would replace Democrats face tough questions with Bolton Democrats debate how and when to get House back in action MORE (D-Conn.), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, expressed fear that Trump’s tweet could result in a fatal miscalculation with North Korea.

“That would get real very quickly,” Himes said on CNN. 

“I guess the president regards this as a show of strength,” the congressman added. “But as everybody who has ever been on a first-grade playground recognizes, it’s usually the person who is most aggressively pounding their chest that is in fact the weak one.”

Eliot Cohen, a State Department official in the George W. Bush administration who has been an outspoken critic of Trump, said the president’s provocative comments were dangerous and juvenile and suggested his aides should rein him in.

“Spoken like a petulant ten year old. But one with nuclear weapons — for real — at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me,” Cohen tweeted