Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President-elect Trump, talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump's tweet Thursday saying the U.S. needs to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. "A lot of people are hiding under the bed right now because he doesn’t -- it doesn't seem like he knows what he's talking about on this issue," Maddow said about Trump's nuclear policy.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
"I don't think the tweet was groundbreaking in this regard," she said. "It seems that President Obama himself has... called for an upgrade in our capabilities. I read in one or two articles up to $1 trillion is the price tag. So, we all, you know, President Obama, President-elect Trump, everyone shares the same, I think, core value."
Maddow asks many followup questions, including:
- "Do you feel confident that the president-elect understands what we've got for a nuclear arsenal right now?"
- "Is he saying that we need different kinds of nuclear weapons?"
- "Who has the most nuclear weapons after us and Russia?"
Maddow also warns: "If the United States announces a U-turn on nuclear policy, India and Pakistan don't have any nuclear weapons on launch status. They could move them to that status because a new nuclear arms race is about to start."
Transcript via MSNBC:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: ll he's saying is, look, his first priority is to keep us all safe and secure. His first doctrine is peace through strength. In a perfect world, Rachel, we wouldn't have any nuclear weapons. But it's not a perfect world. In fact, it’s a very dangerous world. And --
MADDOW: In proliferation, what do you --
CONWAY: Well, what he’s saying -- I think all the president-elect is saying is that we have to be able to be -- to keep ourselves safe and secure, and when others stop building their nuclear weapons, then we'll feel more secure in that regard.
MADDOW: Who is he talking about?
CONWAY: Well, he's talking about anyone who fits the description of a regime that would do us harm or a rogue nation.
MADDOW: Is there -- is he -- I mean, I’m asking you this not to try to trap you on this, but in all seriousness, this is really a big deal. Is he making a claim that there’s some new nation that's a proliferation risk, that nuclear weapons are being developed by a country that we don't know about, that we haven’t been talking about?
CONWAY: No, he’s not. But let’s fair, too, I don't think the tweet was groundbreaking in this regard. It seems that President Obama himself has invested -- has called for an upgrade in our capabilities. I read in one or two articles up to $1 trillion is the price tag. So, we all, you know, President Obama, President-elect Trump, everyone shares the same, I think, core value and their first duty is to try to keep us all safe. And we know it's a dangerous world and that includes nuclear weapons.
MADDOW: When he says we have to expand our nuclear capability, does he -- I mean, does he mean more nuclear weapons? Because for decades, we haven't been creating -- we haven’t been making nuclear weapons since George H.W. Bush, as I’m sure you know. Is he talking about more nuclear weapons? Do we need more than we have?
CONWAY: I think what the president-elect is really saying that it’s his first obligation is to keep us safe and secure, and he believes in peace through strength. He recognizes at the same time, Rachel, that other people are nuclear capable. That's not abating. It’s not like we're going to tell them, please stop doing that because we said so. And he wants us to be prepared.
He makes very clear that this maybe a way for others to stop doing what they're doing.
MADDOW: Honestly, though, the American position on nuclear weapons worldwide for a very long time now, not just as a partisan matter but over multiple presidents, has been that we are trying to lead the way in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. He's saying we're going to expand our nuclear capability.
CONWAY: He's not necessarily saying that.
MADDOW: He did. He did literally say we need to expand our nuclear capability.
CONWAY: What he's saying is we need to expand our nuclear capability, really our nuclear readiness or our capability to be ready for those who also have nuclear weapons.
I mean, this is what happens. When you say that terrorism, particularly ISIS, radicals or terrorists being contained, that are the jayvee team, we don't have to worry about them anymore and then people are being killed in Nice, in Berlin this week, certainly in Orlando at the nightclub in May, in San Bernardino a year ago, in Paris, in Brussels, it doesn't ring true to anybody that they're not advancing. It doesn’t ring true to anybody --
MADDOW: What does that have to do with nuclear weapons?
CONWAY: I’m going to give you the analogy. That just saying it doesn’t make it true. In others, us saying they're contained and then attacking proves that everybody who feels unsafe in a world where terrorists, particularly in the case of ISIS are advancing, that they're still wanting to do them harm.
So, us -- he's trying to in his -- I think in his quest to keep us safe and secure, he's putting the world on notice that he will do what he thinks he needs to do to keep us safe and secure.
MADDOW: By expanding our nuclear capability. I mean --
CONWAY: He's not trying to change a policy through Twitter.
CONWAY: He's not trying to project what he will do as president.
What he's merely saying is that this is a man who gets his intelligence briefings regularly, the PDB, presidential daily briefing refers to a product, but in addition to that which we know he received today or yesterday or both, he also has other intelligence sources and he's learning many different facts that I’m not privy to. And this is one of the responses that he felt compelled to give based on those facts.
MADDOW: Do you feel confident that the president-elect understands what we've got for a nuclear arsenal right now?
MADDOW: Is he saying that we need more weapons on hair trigger alert, on launch on warning status? Is he saying that we need more weapons -- more nuclear weapons in Europe? Is he saying that we need different kinds of nuclear weapons?
I mean, as you know, there's a nuclear triad. We've got three different kinds of nuclear weapons. A lot of weapons experts, a lot of nuclear experts say we need to get rid of one of those legs of the triad. Does he agree with that? Or is this an announcement that we’re not getting rid of that third leg of the triad?
CONWAY: He thinks that a nuclear triad is important to maintain. But I just want to make very clear more broadly speaking, that he's not calling for any of the specific policies that you suggested/asked me. What he's merely saying is he wants us to be ready to defend ourselves and he's not making new policy. I mean --
MADDOW: This sounds like really new policy. On nuclear weapons, it's really a sensitive matter.
CONWAY: Well, of course, I would agree.
MADDOW: Who has the most nuclear weapons after us and Russia?
CONWAY: I don't know. But I’m sure he does.
MADDOW: It's France. India and Pakistan. One of the most important things about -- to know about India and Pakistan having nuclear weapons is the number of nuclear weapons that they've got on launch status. Do you guys talk about that? Like is that like --
CONWAY: Well, I don't. He's surrounded by national security team.
MADDOW: If the United States announces a U-turn on nuclear policy, India and Pakistan don't have any nuclear weapons on launch status. They could move them to that status because a new nuclear arms race is about to start.
CONWAY: So, we're getting ahead of ourselves, Rachel.
MADDOW: But that's what happens in the past when presidents have made even joking remarks about nuclear weapons. So, I think what I’m trying to get at is a lot of people are hiding under the bed right now because he doesn’t -- it doesn't seem like he knows what he's talking about on this issue.
CONWAY: That’s not fair. It’s not fair.
MADDOW: Well, then, how can you make policy on Twitter and then say he’s making policy?
CONWAY: He's not making policy on Twitter.
MADDOW: Expanding our nuclear arsenal and announces it on Twitter is a big deal.
CONWAY: He said our capability and again perhaps he is also echoing what President Obama himself has tried to do here, which is get upgrades to our nuclear systems. I saw in one or two or three reports to the tune of a price tag of a trillion dollars. And -- so, but again, he's talking about keeping us safe and secure.
In a perfect world, we wouldn't be talking about nuclear weapons. It is not a perfect world. It is a world in which this exists and it is a world in which --
MADDOW: We need more?
CONWAY: No, he didn’t say necessarily.
MADDOW: Expanding our nuclear capability. OK, all right.
CONWAY: I just want to say this, in the world in which we live, which is not perfect, in fact, it’s very dangerous and very uncertain, I hope we can all agree -- military might has been one of the ways to deter people from doing bad things. Now, that can take on any number of different aspects, but on this one, I think that we're getting a little too far ahead of ourselves that he's changing policy and making policy in a way that he did not intend.
MADDOW: OK. The president making policy happens whenever the president speaks on a national security matter.