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According to the book, Trump discussed using a nuclear weapon against North Korea and blaming it on someone else in 2017.

WASHINGTON — According to a new section of a book detailing key events of his administration, President Donald Trump discussed using a nuclear weapon against North Korea behind closed doors in 2017 and suggested blaming a U.S. strike against the communist regime on another country.

Trump’s alleged remarks, reported for the first time in a new afterword to a book by New York Times Washington correspondent Michael Schmidt, came as tensions between the US and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un escalated, alarmed then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

The new section of “Donald Trump v. the United States,” obtained by NBC News ahead of its paperback release on Tuesday, offers an extensive examination of Kelly’s life and tenure as Trump’s chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019. Kelly previously served as Trump’s secretary of homeland security. Schmidt bases his account on dozens of interviews with former Trump administration officials and others who worked with Kelly.

Eight days after Kelly was appointed chief of staff, Trump warned that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” When Trump delivered his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if Kim, whom he referred to as “Rocket Man,” continued his military threats.

Later that month, Trump continued to provoke North Korea with his tweets. According to Schmidt, Kelly was more concerned with what Trump was saying privately.

“What scared Kelly more than the tweets was Trump’s continued talk of going to war behind closed doors in the Oval Office. He casually discussed using a nuclear weapon against North Korea, claiming that if he did so, the administration could blame someone else in order to absolve itself of responsibility “according to the new section of the book.

Schmidt continues that Kelly attempted to use logic to explain to Trump why that would not work.

“It’d be difficult not to have the finger pointed at us,” Kelly told the president, according to the afterword.

Kelly summoned the military’s top leaders to the White House to brief Trump on how a war between the United States and North Korea could easily erupt, as well as the massive consequences of such a conflict. The debate over how many people could be killed, however, had “no impact on Trump,” Schmidt writes.

According to the afterword, Kelly then attempted to point out that there would be economic consequences, but the argument only held Trump’s attention for so long.

Then Trump “would return to the possibility of war, including at one point raising to Kelly the possibility of launching a preemptive military attack against North Korea,” Schmidt said.

According to the afterword, Kelly warned Trump that a pre-emptive strike would require congressional approval, which “baffled and annoyed” Trump.

Trump tweeted in early January 2018: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently stated that the “Nuclear Button” is always on his desk. Will someone from his depleted and food-deprived regime please inform him that I, too, have a Nuclear Button, but it is much larger and more powerful than his, and my Button works!”

Schmidt also claims that for decades, senior US officials were aware that North Korea was attempting to spy on US decision-makers. As a result, White House aides were concerned that “Trump would repeatedly talk on unclassified phones, with friends and confidants outside the government, about how he wanted to use military force against North Korea.”

Schmidt writes that there is no evidence that North Korea had a source in the White House, but that it “was well within the realm of American intelligence assessment” that it could have been listening to Trump’s calls.

“Kelly would have to remind Trump that he could not share classified information with his friends,” Schmidt writes.

According to the new section, Kelly devised a strategy that he believes ultimately prompted Trump to tone down his rhetoric in spring 2018: appealing directly to Trump’s “narcissism.”

According to Schmidt, Kelly persuaded the president that he could prove he was the “greatest salesman in the world” by attempting to strike a diplomatic relationship, thereby preventing a nuclear conflict that Kelly and other top military leaders saw as a more immediate threat than most realised at the time.

According to the new section, the situation with North Korea consumed Kelly almost immediately after he took the job at the White House, which he had not actually committed to doing before Trump tweeted that the position was his.

“Holy s—- — oh, I gotta call Karen,” Kelly said, referring to his wife, according to the afterword.

“Three days later, on Monday morning, Kelly met with his aides in a large conference room at a Department of Homeland Security office building a few blocks from the White House. Kelly was solemn. ‘This is a great job,’ he said, referring to the cabinet position he was leaving. ‘That’s not a good job. But the president has asked me to do it.'”

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