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Trump and Mike Pence walk out with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis following Trump's visit to the Pentagon, July 20. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Trump said he wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal tenfold at a July meeting with his highest-ranking national security leaders, per "three officials who were in the room," NBC News reports.

"Officials in the Pentagon meeting were rattled by the president's desire for more nuclear weapons and his understanding of other national security issues from the Korean peninsula to Iraq and Afghanistan, the officials said."

The comments came after Trump saw a slide showing the height of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal was in the 1960s. It was reportedly the same meeting where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to have called Trump a "moron."

The surprise: The officials in the meeting reportedly explained the current military posture is stronger now than it was during that buildup, and outlined budgetary and treaty restraints to increasing the size of the nuclear arsenal.

The risk: Any increase in the nuclear arsenal could violate international disarmament treaties and set off an international arms race — one which Tehran said Trump has already instigated with his rhetoric about nukes.

The backdrop: The July 20 meeting was held at the Pentagon one day after Trump took military leaders by surprise in the White House Situation Room when he discussed firing the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan due to a losing strategy. The idea behind holding a followup meeting at the Pentagon was, per someone familiar with the Situation Room meeting, "Maybe we need to slow down a little and explain the whole world" in broad strokes.

What's next: The officials who were in the room at the July 20 meeting told NBC News no expansion like the one Trump suggested is planned. The Pentagon is currently conducting a Nuclear Posture Review and currently has 4,000 nuclear warheads in its stockpile.

Go deeper

54 mins ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

1 hour ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

2 hours ago - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.

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