President Trump has on more than one occasion asked national security and Homeland security officials to look into using nukes to prevent hurricanes from making it to the U.S., according to a report from Axios writers Jonathan Swan and Margaret Telev. The report was based on comments from "sources who have heard the president's private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments."
The idea is not a new one and dates back to at least the Eisenhower administration. From time-to-time the hypothetical plan resurfaces, which even led to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publishing an easily understood fact sheet as to why it wouldn't work.
Swan and Telev go on to recount an instance where Trump was paraphrased as saying, "I got it. I got it. Why don't we nuke them? They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they're moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can't we do that?"
The briefer reportedly responded by telling Trump "Sir, we'll look into that."
The source adds that the president's response knocked the briefer "back on his heels," and it also left those in attendance wondering what exactly they're supposed to do with that suggestion after the meeting wrapped up.
Axios relays that that instance was not the only time the president wondered aloud about the idea. A 2017 memo from the National Security Council says that a second discussion occurred in which Trump asked about bombing hurricanes to keep them off U.S. shores. A source who was briefed on that memo's contents said that the word "nuclear" wasn't used in this instance and that it covered a number of topics, but that Trump simply asked about bombing hurricanes.
The idea was never formalized and no actual policy was ever put forward. A senior administration official didn't necessarily defend the specifics of the idea, but they did laud the overall goal.
"His goal—to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland—is not bad. His objective is not bad," that official said. "What people near the president do is they say 'I love a president who asks questions like that, who’s willing to ask tough questions....' It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up. For me, alarm bells weren't going off when I heard about it, but I did think somebody is going to use this to feed into 'the president is crazy' narrative."