Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday rejected the NBC News report that President Trump wanted to greatly expand the United States's nuclear arsenal, calling the story "irresponsible."
"Recent reports that the President called for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal are absolutely false. This kind of erroneous reporting is irresponsible,” Mattis said in a statement.
NBC reported Wednesday that during a July 20 meeting of top military officials, Trump suggested dramatically expanding the country's nuclear capabilities — from roughly 4,000 to 32,000 — after seeing data that showed the U.S. weapons stockpile decreasing since the late 1960s.
Top military officials reportedly told him that such a buildup would be prohibitively expensive and violate international disarmament treaties.
Trump responded to the report, bashing it as "fake news" in a series of tweets.
“Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” he wrote on Twitter.
In a follow-up tweet, Trump continued: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”
Trump has called for expanding the U.S. nuclear capability repeatedly in the past.
In December, the then-president-elect tweeted that “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The Defense Department has no current plans to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal. It is, however, in the midst of a nuclear posture review, expected to be finished by the end of the year. The review will inform the Pentagon on modernizing the country’s arsenal within the parameters of nuclear treaties.