Donald Trump had a serious concern for his national-security advisors and administration officials near the start of his presidency: He believed China had a secret capability, even a powerful weapon, that created massive, man-made hurricanes and then fired them at the United States? He wanted to know if that weapon would be considered a foreign power’s act of war, and might the US respond militarily? According to two former senior administration officials and a third person briefed on the situation, President Trump repeatedly inquired about this.
“It was almost too stupid for words,” said a former Trump official intimately familiar with the then-sitting president’s inquiry. “I did not get the sense he was joking at all.”
Trump began questioning national-security officials and other workers about the supposed weapon during his first year in office, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks. Trump’s inquiry would resurface periodically until at least 2018. Two of the sources said that when Trump entered his second year in office, he began to drop the subject and only laughed about it periodically.
The then-leader of the free world’s question became known as the “Hurricane Gun” thing in certain quarters within Trumpland.
“I was present [once] when he asked if China ‘made’ hurricanes to send to us,” said the other former senior official. Trump “wanted to know if the technology existed. One guy in the room responded, ‘Not to the best of my knowledge, sir.’ I kept it together until I got back to my office… I do not know where the [then-]president would have heard about that… He was asking about it around the time, maybe a little before, he asked people about nuking hurricanes.”
This egregiously stupid line of inquiry from Trump, which had previously gone unnoticed, was just one example of an administration rife with Trump’s ludicrously insane, conspiracy-theory-fueled ideas and policy suggestions, many of which were ignored or shot down, preventing further horrors. Last week, it was revealed that Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, stated in his new memoir that his ex-boss planned to launch a missile attack on Mexico during a time of peace between the two countries, then try to blame it on another country.
Despite leaving office in disgrace, Trump remains the undisputed leader of the Republican Party and its most popular and influential national figure. He is currently the obvious frontrunner to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 if he decides to run again. Trump has made it apparent to a number of colleagues and advisers that he intends to run for president again, having made it his mission to turn his anti-democratic lies about the 2020 election being “stolen” from him into party orthodoxy.
“That does not surprise me at all,” says Stephanie Grisham, a former top Trump aide who has since had a very public break with the Trumps. Though Grisham said she was not privy to the “Hurricane Gun” chatter, she simply noted: “Stuff like that was not unusual for him. He would blurt out crazy things all the time, and tell aides to look into it or do something about it. His staff would say they’d look into knowing that more often than not, he’d forget about it quickly — much like a toddler.”
Trump’s “hurricane gun” questions are the latest in a long line of strange ideas he has about storms in particular, as well as climate science in general, which he has dubbed a “hoax invented by and for the Chinese.” Trump insisted on informing the public despite the fact that no models projected Hurricane Dorian’s arrival in Alabama during the 2019 hurricane season. Trump later appeared with a modified map that included a storm forecast for Alabama. Sharpiegate was dubbed after Trump’s erroneous map-marking, and an inspector general’s report indicated that, under White House pressure, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration improperly backed up Trump’s assertion regarding the hurricane’s path.