Houston, We Have a Problem. LA, Chicago, STL, ATL, NYC, You Guys Too

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, center, poses for a group photo with Senior Military leaders and spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Trump was hosting the dinner for the group this evening. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Last night on Chris Hayes’ show, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman suggested retired Generals Mattis and Kelly were discussing what they would do if President Trump made a “lunge” for the nuclear football. Would they tackle him? Restrain him. Sherman said he’d met with a “very prominent” Republican.

The sourcing on this is at a minimum murky. If you watch closely, what Sherman says is that this senior Republican told him he “imagined” these conversations were taking place. Later when Chris Hayes pressed Sherman on this point, Sherman said “these are the conversations that they have very good authority are taking place inside the White House. I would say this Mar-a-Lago strategy is a sort of emblematic of how general Kelly does not want the president to be out of his sight.” In other words, on his second account, Sherman suggested ‘imagined’ was a turn of phrase and that he had sources that knew these conversations were happening.

This comes after broadly similar comments from Senator Bob Corker, President Trump’s latest sparring partner, who said: “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him … As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”

Then there’s news about what prompted Rex Tillerson to call President Trump a “f—king moron”. According to NBC, at a meeting last summer with top national security officials, President Trump said he wanted a tenfold increase in the size of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Apparently Trump was shown a chart something like this.

As you can see, the size of the US arsenal has declined dramatically since its high in the 1960s. The reasons for that, which President Trump had apparently never heard of, are several. Major reductions came into effect through the late 60s and 1970s, in part tied to a series of arms limitations treaties with the USSR. There was a major drop at the end of the Cold War, codified in other treaties, and another significant reduction early in this century.

The nuclear weapons of today are significantly more advanced than the ones we had in the 1950s and 1960s. We also have agreements which keep key adversaries (specifically Russia) capped at rough parity with the US at the five or six thousand level. There are debates about modernization of the nuclear arsenal. Hardly anyone thinks we should go back to having thirty or thirty five thousand nuclear weapons. It serves no purpose (you can destroy a lot of the world with 6,000), it is highly destabilizing and costs astronomical sums of money. It’s the kind of comment you’d expect from an ignorant and aggressive clown looking at a chart he knows nothing about.

Some of these reports seem squishy. But the sum total of them suggests that the worst we could have imagined of what’s going on in the Trump White House is probably true. It may be worse than we thought.

There’s endless debate about what impeachment is for and what it is. At the end of the day, it’s really not about criminal infractions or which misdeeds might be impeachable. The ultimate reason is that the architects of the constitution wanted a path to avoid what we would now call a coup. I believe Franklin referred to it more brutally as assassination. You need a constitutional framework – not acts outside the constitution or legality – by which a President who is clearly dangerous to the Republic or not capable of filling the job can be removed. The odds of this happening any time soon or any time during Trump’s term seem close to nil. But this is the kind of President it was designed for.