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President Donald Trump escalated tensions with North Korea on Tuesday evening with a crude tweet about the United States' nuclear launch button. (Photo: Victoria Pickering/Flickr/cc)

Twitter Shrugs, But Atomic Scientists Warn Trump an "Existential Threat to Humanity"

Democrats urge Congress to pass legislation placing lawmaking body between Trump and a nuclear launch

Julia Conley

Despite assurances from Twitter on Wednesday that President Donald Trump has not violated the company's terms of service, a top arms control expert argues the president's most recent tweet threatening nuclear war proves he remains "an existential threat to humanity."

"This could result in a back-and-forth series of military actions that might—actually, really—lead to worldwide thermonuclear war and the end of the human experiment."—John Mecklin, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The president's tweeted provocations "increase the probability that North Korea will misinterpret normal military exercises as an attack and respond with force," said John Mecklin, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

"This could result in a back-and-forth series of military actions that might—actually, really—lead to worldwide thermonuclear war and the end of the human experiment."

Mecklin's comments followed Trump's response to Kim's speech on Monday in which Kim reminded the president that North Korea's nuclear launch button is on his desk:

The tweet prompted shocked reactions from political journalists and social media users, but Twitter responded to complaints about the president's threat with a brief statement saying it represented "no violation of the Twitter Rules against abusive behavior."

The company's Terms of Service specify that "You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people," a rule that has prompted many to question its conclusion that Trump's latest threat was not an infraction.

While Republican leaders have ignored the president's latest missive, some Democratic lawmakers are taking his threats seriously and renewing their call for the passage of legislation that would put Congress between Trump and a nuclear launch order.

"Congress needs to pass this Monday—on the first day of votes in 2018—legislation restricting Trump's ability to launch a preemptive nuclear strike without authorization," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote on social media hours after the president's post.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced bills that would bar Trump from launching a nuclear strike without Congress declaring war, just days after the president was sworn in last year.

"President Trump's tweet borders on presidential malpractice, needlessly deepening a crisis and squandering a fresh opportunity to attempt diplomacy as we try to peacefully negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs," said Markey on Wednesday. "We cannot let this war of words result in an actual war. I call on the Trump administration to immediately commit to a credible and direct diplomatic campaign, combined with strict economic sanctions, to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. President Trump must understand that the launching of insults could lead to the launching of nuclear bombs, and that would be a calamity for the Korean Peninsula and the entire world."

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