President Trump rang in the new year with a shocking tweet responding to Kim Jong Un, stating, "North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' 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!" The tweet has been widely criticized as being flippant about the very serious subject of a nuclear assault on one nation by another. Other critics are posing new questions about Trump's true understanding of what a nuclear war would entail, both for the countries involved and the world at large.
Past U.S. presidents have considered the use of nuclear weapons in private, but never in public and never with such apparent bravado. "To call it juvenile would be an insult to children for what he did tonight," retired Admiral John Kirby, the former State Department and Pentagon spokesman, told CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday. The tweet is likely to further alienate current allies of the United States, and anger China and Russia. U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has, however, defended Trump's tweet: "[Kim Jong Un] can't sit there and imply that he's gonna destroy the United States without us reminding him of the facts and the reality that if you go there it's not us that's going to be destroyed, it's you. I think that [Trump] always has to keep Kim on his toes." Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo also came to Trump's defense, arguing that the U.S. needs to break with decades of unsuccessful policy towards the DPRK. "We want the regime to understand that unlike before, we are intent on resolving this," Pompeo states to Fox News, "And it is our firm conviction that resolving this diplomatically is the correct answer, but that this administration is prepared to do what it takes."
In Washington this week, Trump unleashed blistering attacks against former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon after the latter disparaged his children in an upcoming book chronicling the inner workings of the White House under the Trump administration. The book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolf, paints a picture of the president as being an impulsive, unqualified, and volatile commander in chief. Bannon is quoted in the book as saying that Ivanka Trump was "dumb as a brick" and that Donald Trump Jr. was "treasonous" for meeting with Russians. The falling out between Trump and Bannon marks the end of an immensely influential partnership. The nationalist-populist movement that they fostered before, during, and after the 2016 presidential election has transformed American politics, and the future of this movement is now in a state of flux. As for Trump's reaction to Wolf's book itself, the president threatened legal action if it was published. Wolf, capitalizing on the sudden public interest, responded by pushing the publication date forward to January 5th.