According to MSNBC's Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski, President-Elect Donald Trump told her "Let it be an arms race" on Friday when asked about his recent tweets on about nuclear weapons and potentially escalating tensions with Russia. The comment was not made by Trump on air, but was revealed during an exchange between Brezinski and her co-host, Joe Scarborough. She added that Trump said "We will outmatch them at every pass" and "outlast them all."
The comments Brezinski said Trump made follow a tweet on Thursday, which indicated the president-elect believes the United States should focus on building a greater nuclear arsenal. "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," Trump tweeted.
Hours later, the Trump transition team released a statement from the president-elect along with a holiday letter, which the the team stated was sent by Russia's Vladimir Putin. The letter said, "I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America we will be able – by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner - to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level."
Below, you can read the full text of the letter:
In the statement released by his transition team, "A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct. I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path."
Also on Friday, during an appearance on the Today show, Sean Spicer, who Trump recently appointed to be his White House press secretary, tried to moderate the implication of Trump's Thursday tweet, told Matt Lauer, "I think the point that he's making is we're not going to sit back as a country and allow other countries to expand their nuclear capability with the U.S. just sitting idly by. This president is going to take action; he's going to make sure that American interests are protected."
Jason Miller, who Trump appointed to be his White House communications director on Thursday, also tried to to downplay the fears that Trump would escalate a nuclear arms race. "President-elect Trump was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it — particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes. He has also emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength,” Miller said in a statement, as reported by Politico.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
Even before Trump's transition team shared the holiday letter reportedly sent by Putin, the Russian premiere appeared nonplussed by Trump's tweet about the need for the United States to "strengthen and expand its nuclear capability." At his annual news conference, Putin said, "As for [comments by] the newly elected president of the US, there is nothing new." Putin noted that throughout his presidential campaign, Trump said the United States "needed to bolster nuclear capabilities and armed forces in general, and there is nothing new."