Trump asked whether China had attacked U.S. with a “hurricane gun”: report

“It was almost too stupid for words,” a former official told Rolling Stone. “I did not get the sense he was joking"

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published May 11, 2022 9:22AM (EDT)

Donald Trump (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly pressed national security officials on whether China had a secret weapon to launch hurricanes at the United States while he was in office, three sources told Rolling Stone.

Trump repeatedly asked national security officials whether China had secret technology capable of creating a man-made hurricane, two former senior administration officials and another source briefed on the comments told the outlet. Trump also inquired whether such an attack would amount to an "act of war by a foreign power" and whether the U.S. could retaliate militarily, according to the report.

"It was almost too stupid for words," a former administration official told Rolling Stone. "I did not get the sense he was joking at all."

Trump began asking about the would-be weapon during the first year of his presidency and continued to occasionally inquire about it until at least 2018. Trump asked about the potential weapon often enough that aides labeled it the "Hurricane Gun" thing.

"I was present [once] when he asked if China 'made' hurricanes to send to us," a former administration official told the outlet. Trump "wanted to know if the technology existed. One guy in the room responded, 'Not to the best of my knowledge, sir.' I kept it together until I got back to my office… I do not know where the [then-]president would have heard about that… He was asking about it around the time, maybe a little before, he asked people about nuking hurricanes."

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Trump suggested multiple times to national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to prevent hurricanes from hitting the U.S., as Axios reported in 2019.

"I got it. I got it. Why don't we nuke them?" Trump reportedly said at one White House briefing. "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?"

A source that was at the meeting told Axios that the briefer was "knocked back on his heels" by the question but humored Trump anyway, vowing to "look into that."

"You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting," the unnamed source said. "People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, 'What the f---? What do we do with this?'"

Trump denied the report but Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, later introduced a bill aimed at blocking the president from using nuclear bombs to try to affect the weather.

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Stephanie Grisham, who served as Trump's communications director and press secretary before becoming one of his most vocal critics, told Rolling Stone she did not hear Trump's "hurricane gun" comments but added that they did "not surprise me at all."

 "Stuff like that was not unusual for him," she told the outlet. "He would blurt out crazy things all the time, and tell aides to look into it or do something about it. His staff would say they'd look into knowing that more often than not, he'd forget about it quickly — much like a toddler."

Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security who also became a prominent Trump critic, recalled another "bizarre" hurricane meeting with Trump where the Republican seemed "far less concerned with saving American lives and more concerned with his burning question: 'Do they always spin counterclockwise?'"

"We had to tell him, yes, hurricanes always spin that way … in our hemisphere … which of course led to discussion about why toilet water spins the other way in the southern hemisphere. Lives were in danger. But he needed an elementary school lesson," Taylor wrote on Twitter.

Trump in 2019 also appeared obsessed with convincing people that Hurricane Dorian was headed toward Alabama, which no models had predicted. He later held a televised meeting to show off a map on which someone apparently extended the hurricane projection to Alabama using a Sharpie. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration even issued a statement backing Trump's false claim, which an inspector general found had resulted from political pressure and damaged NOAA's credibility.

Taylor recalled aides briefing Trump on hurricane preparedness while the president was more focused on the optics of a potential visit to the wreckage before the storm even hit. He insisted on taking a helicopter to survey the damage and then launched into a rant about how easily helicopters break down when aides explained that it was too far to fly a helicopter from D.C. to the Carolinas.

"In a moment of national consequence — of life or death for many Americans — the president of the United States wasn't just unhelpful. He was a complete idiot," Taylor tweeted. "And we should really try to avoid putting ourselves in that situation again."

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By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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