Donald Trump repeatedly asked an unnamed foreign policy expert why the U.S. couldn’t use its nuclear weapons stockpile during a national security briefing earlier this year, MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough said Wednesday.
Scarborough told the anecdote amid an interview with former CIA director Michael Hayden, who said he could not see himself voting for the “inconsistent” and “dangerous” GOP nominee. Asked if he was aware of anyone among his peers who was advising Trump, Hayden said “no one.”
“I’ll have to be very careful here,” Scarborough said. “Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked, at one point, if we have them, why can’t we use them? That’s one of the reasons he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him. Three times, in an hour briefing, why can’t we use nuclear weapons.”
Watch the exchange above, starting at the 5:40 mark.
Scarborough learned of the exchange “in the last few days,” according to an MSNBC executive.
Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort denied the claim on Wednesday morning.
“Absolutely not true,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “The idea that he’s trying to understand where to use nuclear weapons? It just didn’t happen. I was in the meeting, it didn’t happen.”
In March, Trump refused to rule out using tactical nuclear weapons in the war against the so-called Islamic State.
“I’m never going to rule anything out — I wouldn’t want to say. Even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t want to tell you that because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use them,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Politics.
In a followup interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Trump sounded unconcerned by the prospect of mutual assured destruction, going so far as to ask why the U.S. constructed nuclear weapons if it couldn’t use them.
“Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?” he asked.
“I was against Iraq. I’d be the last one to use them,” he added. (Trump initially supported the Iraq invasion.)
This post was updated with a statement from Paul Manafort.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.