WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that President Donald Trump did not call for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and that erroneous reporting alleging he did is “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 emailed to members of the press. He did not name any news outlets.
Earlier Wednesday, NBC news reported that during a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon, Trump “said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”
A video embedded in the NBC story has the headline: “Did Trump’s call to expand nuclear arsenal lead to Tillerson’s ‘moron’ remark?”
The NBC report noted that its sources, three unidentified officials present for the meeting, said “no such expansion is planned.”
NBC reported that Trump also “expressed a desire” for more U.S. troops and military equipment.
The Pentagon has not responded to a request clarifying whether or not Mattis purposefully used the word “called” instead of “wanted.” One of the authors to the NBC story, Courtney Kube, noted the discrepancy in a tweet.
NBC News didn't report Trump "called for" more nucs. On the contrary, we reported Trump said he wanted more but no one took it as an order.
— Courtney Kube (@ckubeNBC) October 11, 2017
Trump has called the NBC report, which was widely picked up by other media outlets, fake news. In a series of Tweets, Trump alleged that the story was made up to demean him and weighed challenging networks’ broadcast licenses.
Minutes before Mattis’ statement was released, Trump told reporters while sitting beside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office that he wants the U.S. nuclear arsenal “perfectly maintained” and that having a tenfold increase in the nuclear arsenal would be “totally unnecessary.”
He noted that Mattis would be releasing a statement.
“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it,” said Trump.
The Defense Department has no current plans to expand the nuclear arsenal, which would be in violation of international disarmament treaties. It is in the midst of a quadrennial Nuclear Posture Review, which will evaluate the role of nuclear weapons within the U.S. security strategy and how best to modernize the arsenal.
The U.S. has the second largest number of nuclear warheads at 6,800, according to the according to the anti-nuclear group Ploughshares Fund. In first is Russia with 7,000 warheads and France is third with 300 nuclear warheads.