On Friday morning, President Trump kicked off the weekend by threatening North Korea with a nuclear strike. "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" In other words: If North Korea makes good on its suggestion to target Guam, then the United States will retaliate using its own nuclear arsenal, according to Trump.
Trump's threat marks an escalation in U.S. policy toward North Korea. Prior to the Trump presidency, the administration under Obama preferred to condemn North Korea's growing nuclear potential using sanctions and the strict disapproval of the international community. That didn't work: North Korea declared earlier this week that it had the ability to target Guam or Alaska using nuclear force.
Trump's change in tone may prove more effective than the Obama administration's comparatively gentle approach to the North Korea nuclear situation, but, in the meantime, the president continues to taunt a rogue nation with threats. No matter the situation, it's rarely a good idea to threaten a nuclear strike, given that even empty rhetoric over nuclear warfare runs the risk of leading to, well, nuclear warfare.
To gauge the effectiveness of Trump's threat toward Kim Jong-un's temperamental nation, let's take a look at a number of Trump's threats over the past decade — and what ended up taking place.
1. Trump vs. James Comey
The Threat: Having fired former FBI Director James Comey, Trump wrote in an explosive tweet in May: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
Sean Spicer denied in a press conference later that day that this was a threat, noting that Trump's outburst was "not a threat."
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
What Happened: After weeks of speculation, Trump tweeted a month later: "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are 'tapes' or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."
2. Trump vs. CNN
The Threat: In June, The Intercept leaked audio of Trump apparently threatening CNN with a lawsuit at a fundraiser:
What Happened: As of press time, Trump has not sued CNN.
3. Trump vs. Canada
The Threat: Next week, NAFTA talks will begin with President Trump at the helm. Trump has sworn to renegotiate NAFTA terms to put "America First," and has called U.S.-Canada agreements under NAFTA a "disaster."
Canada, led by Justin Trudeau, is expected to challenge this during NAFTA talks; in addition, Trump has butted heads with Canada about various trade agreements, specifically lumbar and its dairy supply system. The U.S. president has pledged to "stand up for [American] dairy farmers" by seeking to amend Canada's dairy policies.
What Happened: The jury is still out on NAFTA and the longevity of U.S.-Canada trade agreements. However, in a leaked private call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump did a 180 on his public comments about Canada:
4. Trump vs. Obama
The Threat: Who could forget the period in which our now-president incorrectly described our former president as a man who was born in Kenya instead of the United States?
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
Trump essentially threatened to expose Obama for not being born in the United States, informing hosts on The View that he had dispatched a team of investigators himself to unearth the truth. "They cannot believe what they are finding!" he told them.
What Happened: Eventually, last summer, Trump admitted that Barack Obama was, in fact, born in the United States.
5. Trump vs. The Wall
The Threat: As a presidential candidate, one of Trump's most unforgettable campaign promises was to build a wall to curb illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States. He also swore that Mexico, rather the United States, would pay for it.
What Happened: In the same leaked call with Mexican President Peña Nieto, Trump backtracked on his promise to make Mexico pay for the wall. “We will work it out," he promised. “Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about," he added.
Although Trump signed an executive order shortly before his call with Peña Nieto to begin construction of the wall, the jury is still out on who will pay for it — and, therefore, if it will ever be built as per Trump's promise. It is estimated to cost between $10 billion and $60 billion dollars.
6. Trump vs. "Happy Holidays"
The Threat: Noted Trump in late 2015, "If I become president, we're all going to be saying, 'Merry Christmas,' again." Trump was referring to Starbucks' 2015 holiday cups, which were designed around the holiday period rather than Christmas specifically.
What Happened: No change has been announced in regard to Starbucks' holiday cups. Trump's first holiday season as president is yet to come.
7. Trump vs. Predictability
The Threat: To be unpredictable, and thus to frighten the international community into not targeting America, the Washington Post reported.
98) Be unpredictable and keep all military strategy a secret. “No one is going to touch us, because I’m so unpredictable.” https://t.co/wMhZAyEsmq— Julia Pierpont (@juliapierpont) November 28, 2016
What Happened: You could argue that Trump has made good on this threat in a domestic sense — several of his policies and announcements, like the trans military ban and the firing of various White House officials, came out of the blue.
However, at present, North Korea is certainly threatening to "touch" Guam, regardless of how unpredictable Trump may be.
8. Gun-Free Zones
The Threat: On his first day in office, Trump noted as a candidate, he would eliminate gun-free zones in the United States. In May 2016, he noted: "The problem with gun free zones is it's like offering up candy to bad people. ... They hear gun free zones and they go in there with their guns blazing."
What Happened: As of press time, this has not yet occurred.
9. Trump vs. The Death Penalty
The Threat: As president, candidate Trump pledged, he would sign an executive order mandating that any citizen convicting of murdering a police officer would get the death penalty.
What Happened: Thus far, this has not come to pass.
10. Trump vs. Obamacare
The Threat: You already know how this one goes: While running for president, one of Trump's most potent campaign promises was to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. "Repeal and replace" became a mantra, and Republicans began working on a plan as soon as Trump took office in January.
What Happened: After some legislative fumbling, Republicans found themselves unable to either repeal or replace Obamacare for the time being.
11. Trump vs. Vacation
The Threat: To not leave the office of the president unattended, even for a moment. "I would not be a president who takes vacations," Trump noted as a candidate. He had previously condemned ex-President Barack Obama for doing so.
What Happened: In August, Trump departed for a 17-day vacation.
12. Prosecute Hillary Clinton
The Threat: As a candidate, Trump repeatedly called to indict Hillary Clinton for what he described as her flagrantly illegal use of a private email server while serving in the State Department.
What Happened: Hillary Clinton has not been indicted or prosecuted. “My inclination would be for whatever power I have on the matter is to say let's go forward. This has been looked at for so long, ad nauseum ... I think it would be very, very divisive for the country," Trump explained to the New York Times.
13. Reform The Department Of Veterans' Affairs
The Threat: It's no secret that the department has let down veterans of American wars both past and present, which led to the resignation of VA secretary Eric Shinseki back in 2014. As president, Trump pledged to eliminate the VA's "corrupt and incompetent" leaders.
What Happened: Although Trump is yet to act on several of his specific promises regarding the VA, e.g. the inclusion of satellite hospitals, he did give Veterans' Affairs leaders more power to eliminate low-performing employees and protect whistleblowers at the agency with a bill Trump signed earlier this summer.
14. Trump vs. The Opioid Crisis
The Threat: Trump promised to crack down on the ever-expanding opioid crisis in the United States by providing effective drug treatment.
What Happened: This week, Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. However, the health care bill he and fellow Republicans proposed had only provided limited funding for drug treatment. (Regardless, it didn't pass.)
15. Trump vs. Legal Immigration
The Threat: Along with his promise to depart 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States, Trump swore to cut down on legal immigration, specifically the green card process, with the goal of protecting American "workers."
What Happened: In August, Trump promised to curb legal immigration for many would-be green card holders and prioritize the needs of immigrants who were highly skilled and spoke English. However, the bill he promoted looks sure to fail in the Senate.
16. Trump vs. The Travel Ban
The Threat: Trump threatened to ban residents of specific countries from the United States. "Countries in which immigration will be suspended would include places like Syria and Libya. And we are going to stop the tens of thousands of people coming in from Syria," he said, according to Politifact.
What Happened: Seeking to implement a "travel ban" was one of Trump's first acts upon taking office. However, several lawsuits stymied Trump's attempt to do so; ultimately, the Supreme Court allowed some aspects of his proposed travel ban to go ahead.
17. Trump vs. Common Core
The Threat: As president, Trump threatened to eradicate Common Core. “We're cutting Common Core. We're getting rid of Common Core. We're bringing education locally," he noted at a rally.
What Happened: As of press time, Trump has not made any moves on Common Core.
18. Trump vs. Planned Parenthood
The Threat: A vocal opponent of Planned Parenthood, Trump has pledged to defund the organization, essentially shutting down its network of clinics and resources to provide STD testing, family planning, and abortion.
What Happened: In April, Trump signed a law allowing states to slash funding to Planned Parenthood. However, his proposals to more drastically curtail funding to Planned Parenthood have stalled or are currently tied up in Congress.
19. Trump vs. The Supreme Court Spot
The Threat: Perhaps the most long-term consequence of Trump's presidency comes in the form of Neil Gorsuch, the right-leaning justice who was nominated by Trump and sworn in to the Supreme Court bench to replace now-deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. Trump had promised to veto Obama's proposed pick, Merrick Garland, and nominate a conservative judge in Garland's place.
What Happened: Trump moved fast on this promise upon taking office, and Gorsuch was sworn in in April.
20. Trump vs. Journalism
The Threat: Besides openly threatening CNN and other outlets, Trump pledged to take a more extreme stance on libel laws generally, opening up defamation law so that outlets would be more at risk of being sued. This, by extension, would make outlets less likely to publish damaging stories.
What Happened: Although Trump has been no less tough on the media, which he has consistently derided as "fake news," he has made no movements to change libel laws in the United States.
21. Trump vs. Vaccination
The Threat: Trump has flip-flopped on the vaccination issue. Earlier this spring, he openly wondered to a school principal what was behind the spike in diagnoses of autism — a spike that anti-vaxxers attribute to the false link between autism and vaccination — but, at a Republican debate, he noted: "I want smaller doses over a longer period of time" in regard to vaccinations, according to Politifact.
What Happened: Trump has remained largely silent on vaccinations since taking office.