In the 1980s, Donald Trump became a global symbol of wealth and success who was planning to build the tallest skyscraper in the world. But the one deal he really wanted to cut was an arms reduction treaty with the Soviet Union that would take nuclear missiles off the Cold War’s battlefield. It’s now clear that Trump knows quite literally nothing about nuclear weapons, but then he fantasized going toe-to-toe with the Russkies at the nuclear bargaining table.
“It’s something that somebody should do that knows how to negotiate and not the kind of representatives that I have seen in the past,” he told the Washington Post in 1984. “It would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles…I think I know most of it anyway.”
Three years later, growing even more alarmed about Libya and other rogue nations getting the bomb, he told author Ron Rosenbaum that he was indeed working with the Reagan White House on nukes. “I’m dealing at a very high level on this,” he said.
Trump was frightened about the spread of nuclear technology—he seemed at one point during the interview to suggest the United States should bomb France to keep it from selling nuclear know-how—and worried about the deal-making skills of American officials. “They have no smiles, no warmth; there’s no sense of them as people,” Trump complained. “Who the hell wants to talk to them? They don’t have the ability to go into a room and sell a deal. They’re not sellers in the positive sense.”
“I used to laugh when I thought back on Trump and me in [the 21 Club] talking nukes,” Rosenbaum wrote for Slate this year. “I’m not laughing anymore.”