WASHINGTON — Behind closed doors in 2017, President Donald Trump discussed the idea of ​​using a nuclear weapon against North Korea and suggested he could blame another country for a US attack on the communist regime, according to a new section of a book detailing key events. of his administration.

Trump’s alleged comments, first reported in a new afterword to a book by New York Times Washington correspondent Michael Schmidt, came as tensions escalated between the United States and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, alarmed then-White House chief of staff John Kelly. .

The new section of «Donald Trump v. the United States,» obtained by NBC News ahead of its paperback publication Tuesday, offers an extensive examination of Kelly’s life and tenure as Trump’s chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019. Kelly was previously Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security. For the account, Schmidt cites in part dozens of in-depth interviews with former Trump administration officials and others who worked with Kelly.

Eight days after Kelly entered the White House as chief of staff, Trump warned that North Korea would be «met with fire, fury and downright power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.» When Trump delivered his first speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2017, he threatened to «totally destroy North Korea» if Kim, whom he referred to as «Rocket Man,» continued with the threats. military from him

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un step on North Korean soil as they walk towards South Korea at the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019, in Panmunjom, Korea.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un step on North Korean soil as they walk towards South Korea at the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019, in Panmunjom, Korea.Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images file

Later that month, Trump continued to incite North Korea through his tweets. But Kelly was more concerned with what Trump was saying in private, Schmidt reports.

«What scared Kelly even more than the tweets was the fact that, behind closed doors in the Oval Office, Trump kept talking like he wanted to go to war. He nonchalantly discussed the idea of ​​using a nuclear weapon against North Korea. , saying that if it took such action, the administration could blame someone else for it to absolve itself of responsibility,” according to the new section of the book.

Kelly tried to use reason to explain to Trump why that wouldn’t work, Schmidt continues.

“It would be hard for them not to point fingers at us,” Kelly told the president, according to the epilogue.

Kelly brought top military leaders to the White House to brief Trump on how a war between the US and North Korea could easily break out, as well as the enormous consequences of such a conflict. But the argument about how many people might die «had no impact on Trump,» Schmidt writes.

Kelly then tried to point out that there would be economic repercussions, but the argument briefly caught Trump’s attention, according to the epilogue.

Trump would then «return to the possibility of war, even at one point raising with Kelly the possibility of launching a preemptive military strike against North Korea,» Schmidt said.

Kelly warned that Trump would need congressional approval for a preemptive strike, which «bewildered and upset» Trump, according to the postscript.

Triumph tweeted in early January 2018: «North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has just declared that the ‘nuclear button is on his desk at all times.’ Could someone from his exhausted and starving regime inform him that I too have a nuclear button , but it is much bigger and more powerful than yours, and my button works?

Schmidt also writes that it was well known among top US officials for several decades that North Korea sought to spy on US decision makers. So White House aides were alarmed «that Trump repeatedly spoke on unclassified phones, with friends and confidantes outside government, about how he wanted to use military force against North Korea.»

Schmidt writes that there is no indication North Korea had a White House source, but said it was «within the purview of US intelligence assessment» that it may have been listening in on Trump’s calls.

“Kelly would have to remind Trump that he couldn’t share classified information with his friends,” Schmidt writes.

According to the new section, Kelly came up with a plan that, in his opinion, led Trump to change the rhetoric in the spring of 2018: directly appealing to Trump’s «narcissism.»

Kelly convinced the president that he could prove he was the «best salesman in the world» by trying to establish a diplomatic relationship, Schmidt writes, thus avoiding a nuclear conflict that Kelly and other major military leaders he saw as a more immediate threat than most realized at the time.

The situation with North Korea consumed Kelly almost immediately after accepting the White House job, which she hadn’t actually committed to before Trump tweeted that the job was hers, according to the new section.

“Holy crap, oh, I have to call Karen,” Kelly said, referring to his wife, according to the epilogue.

«Three days later, on Monday morning, Kelly met with his aides in a large conference room in a Department of Homeland Security office building a few blocks from the White House. Kelly was solemn. ‘This is a great job,’ he said, referring to his leaving cabinet post: ‘That’s not a great job. But the president has asked me to do it.'»