Secretary of Defense James Mattis “is actively considering banning US military and civilian personnel from bringing their personal cell phones into the Pentagon, the world’s largest office building,” CNN reports.
The Doomsday Clock is now two minutes to midnight, the closest it’s been to midnight since 1953.
“The Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists assesses that the world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II… To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger — and its immediacy.”
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds 60% of Americans don’t trust President Trump to handle his nuclear authority responsibly, and just more than half are concerned he might launch a nuclear attack without justification.
CIA director Mike Pompeo told CBS News that North Korea is only “a handful of months” away from delivering an attack on the United States.
Said Pompeo: “We’ll never know the exact nature of what’s taking place…. The core risk is that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is continuing to expand, advance, become more powerful, more capable, more reliable.”
Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) told Fox News that the Islamic State terror group was behind the Las Vegas massacre of 58 people in October.
Said Perry: “I smell a rat, like a lot of Americans. Nothing’s adding up.”
Claiming to have what he “believes” is “credible evidence,” Perry suggested a “terrorist nexus” was involved and claimed to personally have information about “terrorist infiltration through the southern border.”
When pressed to provide more details on what “evidence” he has to support this theory, Perry said he was “not able” to reveal anything.
Washington Post: “In private conversations, Trump has told advisers that he doesn’t think the 2018 election has to be as bad as others are predicting. He has referenced the 2002 midterms, when George W. Bush and Republicans fared better after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these people said.”
Matthew Yglesias: “I’m pretty skeptical that the political dynamics of September 2001 would be replicated today. But regardless, this is a frightening line of thought for an incumbent president and his team to be entertaining.”
Hawaii officials confirmed “that there was no ballistic missile headed toward the state, minutes after an emergency alert was sent to cellphones urging people to seek immediate shelter,” the New York Times reports.
Jonathan Chait: “During his morning Executive Time, President Trump took a well-deserved break from his long hours of document study to watch Fox News. The segment featured one of the talking heads urging Trump to oppose the House bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The president immediately tweeted out his alarmed confusion that the House was apparently on the verge of approving the very law the sinister Deep State had used to ‘tapp’ his phones.”
Jonathan Swan reports that sources in the GOP leadership “were horrified.”
Lawfare: “When the history of President Trump’s use of Twitter is written, there will be a stiff competition for his most destructive, most irresponsible tweet. A strong contender for that less-than-august honor came Thursday morning.”
The Atlantic: “There are sounds, for those who can hear them, of the preliminary and muffled drumbeats of war. The Chinese are reported to be preparing refugee camps along North Korean border. Resources are being shifted to observe and analyze the North Korean military. Mundane logistical processes of moving, stockpiling and updating critical items and preparing military personnel are under way. Only the biggest indicator—the evacuation of American dependents from South Korea—has yet to flash red, but, in the interest of surprise, that may not happen.”
“America’s circumspect and statesmanlike Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, talks ominously of storm clouds gathering over Korea, while the commandant of the Marine Corps simply says ‘I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming.'”
Time: “Buried inside the mammoth $700 billion defense bill President Donald Trump signed last month is a relatively miniscule $25 million to fund development of a new road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile. The program could be easily overlooked amid the Christmas list of military hardware the administration is buying, except for one thing: the missile is prohibited by a 30-year-old Cold War arms control agreement with Russia.”
“The research and development on the medium-range missile is intended to serve as a direct response to Russia’s deployment in recent years of its own treaty-busting missile. U.S. intelligence first recognized Moscow’s potential violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty when the Russian missile was still in test phase. The Obama administration worked unsuccessfully to persuade the Kremlin to stand down the program. Now the Trump administration has decided to respond with a missile of its own.”
Washington Post: “The National Security Agency is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel, some disillusioned with the spy service’s leadership and an unpopular reorganization, take higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector. Since 2015, the NSA has lost several hundred hackers, engineers and data scientists, according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. The potential impact on national security is significant, they said.”
While addressing Coast Guard members, President Trump promised increased funding for the military and told them about all the new equipment that it’s buying, the Washington Post reports.
And he promised that U.S. allies won’t get equipment that is quite as good because “even if they’re allies, you never know about an ally; an ally can turn.”
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience that he has given a lot of thought to what he would say if President Trump ordered a strike he considered unlawful, CBS News reports.
Said Hyten: “I think some people think we’re stupid. We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”
“As head of STRATCOM, Hyten is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Hyten said he has been trained every year for decades in the law of armed conflict, which takes into account specific factors to determine legality — necessity, distinction, proportionality, unnecessary suffering and more. Running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order is standard practice, he said.”
“A decades-old presidential authority to use nuclear weapons is suddenly coming into question as US allies and some lawmakers from both parties want the Trump administration to assure them that President Donald Trump cannot rashly launch a nuclear strike,” CNN reports.
“The potential that Trump could use existing law to authorize the deployment of a nuclear weapon on his own is becoming the subject of frequent conversation — and bipartisan anxiety — on Capitol Hill. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker will hold a hearing Tuesday on the authority of the President to maintain sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.”
“A NATO partner country raised concerns about the President’s command of the US launch system.”