NBC News has a detailed report of a July 20 meeting between Donald Trump and his military advisors that clarifies why Tillerson, the secretary of state, allegedly disparaged the president behind his back. At the meeting, Trump reportedly astonished military leaders by saying he wanted to rebuild the nation’s nuclear stockpile to its peak level of the late 1960s—a tenfold increase that would violate international agreements the U.S. has adhered to since the 1980s.
According to the report:
Some officials in the Pentagon meeting were rattled by the president’s desire for more nuclear weapons and his understanding of other national security issues from the Korean peninsula to Iraq and Afghanistan, the officials said.
That meeting followed one held a day earlier in the White House Situation Room focused on Afghanistan in which the president stunned some of his national security team. At that July 19 meeting, according to senior administration officials, Trump asked military leaders to fire the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and compared their advice to that of a New York restaurant consultant whose poor judgment cost a business valuable time and money.
Two people familiar with the discussion said the Situation Room meeting, in which the president’s advisers anticipated he would sign off on a new Afghanistan strategy, was so unproductive that the advisers decided to continue the discussion at the Pentagon the next day in a smaller setting where the president could perhaps be more focused. “It wasn’t just the number of people. It was the idea of focus,” according to one person familiar with the discussion. The thinking was: “Maybe we need to slow down a little and explain the whole world” from a big-picture perspective, this person said.
This report makes clear that the crisis in American leadership goes well beyond Trump’s personal conflict with his secretary of state. The president’s relationship with the American military seems to be in turmoil, which might explain the recent flood of leaks about private meetings as well as Senator Bob Corker public doubt about Trump’s fitness for office.