President Trump said on Oct. 11 that “it’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it.” (The Washington Post)

President Trump on Wednesday threatened NBC over a news report he called “pure fiction,” and he lashed out at the news media, declaring that it is “frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”

“People should look into it… The press should speak more honestly,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I’ve seen tremendously dishonest press. It’s not even a question of distortion.”

The president was reacting to a report that he pushed senior aides for a major expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Earlier in the day, Trump on Twitter dismissed that report as “pure fiction” and raised the possibility that he would support stripping the broadcast licenses of news networks that report what he believes to be inaccurate information.

“I know the capability that we have, believe me, and it is awesome, it is massive, and when they make up stories like that that’s just made up,” Trump said in the Oval. “They have their sources that don’t exist; in my opinion they don’t exist. They make up the sources.”

Trump’s morning tweets came after NBC News reported that Trump purportedly told senior national security advisers during a meeting last summer that he favored what amounted to nearly a tenfold increase in nuclear weapons.

Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a “tenfold” increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017

With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017

Trump has previously challenged NBC’s reporting on the meeting, including a revelation that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to the president as a “moron” after the meeting and considered resigning from the Cabinet. Tillerson said during a news conference that he never thought of quitting, but he did not confirm or deny making the remark about the president when directly asked about it by a reporter. The State Department’s spokeswoman subsequently denied that Tillerson had made that comment.

President Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been on shaky ground for weeks, and Trump’s challenge of an ‘IQ test’ face-off with Tillerson isn’t smoothing things over. Here’s a look back at where their relationship derailed. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

NBC reported that Trump’s reaction over the nuclear stockpile came after senior advisers showed him information charting its steady decline in numbers since the 1960s during the meeting at the Pentagon in July.

[Aanlysis: Trump sees power as military strength — and nukes as the apex of that power]

Legal experts called the president’s threats against NBC empty, noting that licenses are not granted to networks but rather to individual stations across the country. Furthermore, they said, it is rare for those licenses to be stripped.

“Not how it works,” Jessica Rosenworcel, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, wrote on Twitter, liking to an FCC report on how stations are regulated.

“Obviously, when a public official, much less the president, threatens media outlets with any kind of legal proceedings, it is a cause for grave concern as a First Amendment matter,” said Andrew Schwartzman, a media law specialist at the Georgetown University Law Center. “But as a practical matter there is no possible legal jeopardy for Comcast television licenses.”

Comcast, the cable giant, owns NBC.

Schwartzman noted the historical precedent when allies to President Nixon challenged the television licenses of The Washington Post Co. in 1973 during the Post’s ongoing investigation into the Watergate scandal. The challenges were baseless and were unsuccessful, Schwartzman said.

“The Post was never under serious legal threat,” he said.

Trump is preparing for an 11-day trip to Asia, where he will seek to bolster international support to pressure North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing. During a speech at the United Nations last month, Trump said the United States was prepared to “totally destroy” the North if necessary, and he derisively referred to dictator Kim Jong Un as the “rocket man.”

Tillerson said during a visit to Beijing two weeks ago that the administration was “probing” for channels of direct communication with Pyongyang to ratchet down tensions, but Trump quickly undercut the nation’s top diplomat, saying on Twitter that it was a waste of time.

…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

Trump is set to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines in his trip early next month.

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