There were conflicting explanations offered Wednesday to news organizations by the Trump Administration on why President Donald Trump had threatened a vigorous military attack against North Korea, when he vowed Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on the Pyongyang regime of Kim Jong Un.
In a series of leaks to major news organizations, top White House officials portrayed the statement as one that was off the cuff by the President.
Politico quoted one White House official who called the Trump remarks, “impromptu,” while the New York Times said the warning “was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded.”
Other White House officials told the Washington Post, Reuters and other news organizations that the Trump threats were “spontaneous.”
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuffed those accounts, telling reporters that the President had planned his statement with new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
“General Kelly and others on the NSC team were well aware of the tone of the statement of the president prior to delivery,” Sanders said to reporters in New Jersey. “The words were his own. The tone and strength of the message were discussed beforehand.”
And at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis echoed some of the tough talk from the President about the Pyongyang regime.
“The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” Mattis said of the North Korean government in a written statement.
Meanwhile, the North Koreans were making more noise on Wednesday about a possible attack on U.S. military bases on the island of Guam, some 2300 miles away from North Korea, taunting Mr. Trump from afar by labeling the President’s remarks a “load of nonsense.”
That came hours after Mr. Trump had said on Twitter that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was stronger than ever, seemingly backing up his threat to use overwhelming force against Pyongyang if needed.
For a second straight day in Congress, reaction was the same, as many Republicans remained silent on the President’s bellicose warning to Pyongyang, while most Democrats assailed Mr. Trump.
“Over the past couple days, President Trump has taken one of this world’s gravest threats – nuclear conflict – and treated it in a way that is both reckless and needless,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH).
“The President’s most recent comments are recklessly belligerent and demonstrate a grave lack of appreciation for the severity of the North Korean nuclear situation,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
But not all Democrats were critical of the President.
“We either do nothing, go to war or negotiate a stand down,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) of the dispute with North Korea, “and so far we’ve seen no sign that they’re willing to negotiate.”