According to a report by CNN, during a 2017 visit to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump joked about using the “nuclear football” – the briefcase that is always carried close by the president that can be used to launch a nuclear attack – on North Korea. People familiar with the president’s visit to the island to survey the destruction left behind by Hurricane Maria told CNN that the president was distracted by complications with North Korea during his trip, which was ostensibly to tour storm-ravaged neighborhoods and offer comfort to the people living through the disaster.
According to three separate CNN sources, who were nearby during the tour, at one point Trump referenced the briefcase containing the capability to launch nuclear warheads and suggested that he could use it on North Korea if the nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un, continued to oppose him.
“This is what I have for Kim.”
At the time, the president and the leader of the communist dictatorship were engaged in a war of words, a battle of increasingly escalating rhetoric that didn’t shy away from references to nuclear warfare. For instance, the president referred to the size of his “nuclear button” being bigger than Kim’s and, via Twitter, threatened to rain down on North Korea “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
In the months that have passed since then, Trump and Kim have developed a warmer relationship; just days ago, Trump reportedly surprised his own staff by abruptly revoking sanctions against North Korea. The reason the White House gave for the unexpected move just one day after those new sanctions were imposed was that the president “likes” Kim Jong Un, according to a report in CNBC.
Trump has received a great deal of recent criticism from Puerto Rico officials for the reports that he is currently seeking ways to cut back on the relief funding that is still flowing to the island. Among those critics was Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who made a remark that alluded to “punching a bully in the mouth” in reference to the president’s stance on Puerto Rico.
Rosselló also told CNN that he did notice during that 2017 visit that Trump didn’t appear to be focused on the plight of the Puerto Rican people
“There were other topics that were being discussed and my view is that the sole focus of that trip should have been on Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said.
When CNN pressed him to confirm or deny if he overheard the president’s remarks regarding the nuclear football on that day, Rosselló demurred.
“He was talking about a whole host of other issues but I would rather leave those conversations internal,” he said.