“Less than a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, top homeland security officials were so alarmed about escalating tensions with North Korea that they held multiple meetings to prepare for a nuclear attack on American soil, according to a forthcoming book by Miles Taylor, who was a top official in the department at the time.
In an excerpt of the book Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump that was shared with POLITICO, Taylor describes acute concerns in the Trump administration in 2017 after North Korean missile tests — including one while then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Trump responded to the missile tests with increasingly bellicose rhetoric.
“In the national security world, anything having to do with nuclear weapons is handled with extreme sensitivity — well planned, carefully scripted — yet we didn’t know what Trump might say at any given moment,” writes Taylor, who was intelligence and counter-threats counselor to the secretary of homeland security at the time. “One day, he threatened North Korea ‘with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.’ He almost seemed to welcome a nuclear conflict, which terrified us.”
Taylor said then-Defense Secretary James Mattis cornered him one day after a Situation Room meeting.
“‘You all need to prepare like we’re going to war,’ he warned. Mattis was serious. DHS should assume the homeland was in mortal danger.”
The Department of Homeland Security took a step it had never taken before, according to Taylor, who is best known for writing an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times in 2018 describing a “quiet resistance” in the Trump administration “of people choosing to put country first.”
“We convened every top leader in DHS to discuss the brewing crisis,” he writes in the new book, which is set for release on July 18. “Experts walked through various scenarios of a nuclear strike on the U.S. homeland, dusted off response plans, and outlined best-case scenarios which nevertheless sounded horrifically grim. I cannot provide the details, but I walked out of those meetings genuinely worried about the safety of the country. In my view, the department was unprepared for the type of nuclear conflict Trump might foment.””