Report: US nuclear general says would resist 'illegal' Trump strike order

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. nuclear commander was quoted as saying on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an "illegal" launch of nuclear weapons.

CBS News said Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.

"I think some people think we're stupid," Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. "We're not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?"

CBS said Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command.

RELATED: Americans preparing for nuclear war in the 1950s

Americans preparing for nuclear war in the 1950s
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Americans preparing for nuclear war in the 1950s
In 1951, President Truman created the Federal Civil Defense Administration, which provided educational materials for schools about how to deal with a nuclear attack. Here, students kneel in the hallway during an air-raid drill.
In the '50s, New York City spent $159,000 on 2.5 million identification bracelets for children to wear. Here, students practice the duck-and-cover drill.
In this photo, New York City is mostly empty due to a 10-minute civil defense test air-raid alert.
At-home bomb shelters grew in popularity. In 1951, two styles of bomb shelters were being sold.
Here, in 1961, a woman poses within a bomb shelter.

Here, a model poses with a concrete dome shelter.

American General H.P. Storke exits a protection shelter to observe the deflagrations of an atomic bomb explosion in Desert Rock, Nevada, on May 15, 1952.

A woman demonstrates how to drop flat on the floor as close to the base of the wall as possible during in 1950.

Newlyweds Melvin Minnison and Maria Rodiguez hold hands as they begin their two-week honeymoon in Miami in 1959. They spent their honeymoon sealed in the 20-ton concrete and steel shelter, which is eight feet by fourteen feet in area. It's supposed to be a demonstration of how well a family could exist in an emergency. The shelter is equipped with food and water.

An illustration depicts a family in their underground lead fallout shelter, equipped with a Geiger counter, periscope, and air filter in the early 1960s.

A few of the Allerton House's guests showed how comfortable and practical are the conveniences incorporated in the new air-raid shelter completed in the sub-basement of the hotel in 1941.

The shelter is approximately 45 feet underground, and an auxiliary lighting system has been installed in case the hotel's own light plant goes out of order.

A few of the Allerton House's guests showed how comfortable and practical are the conveniences incorporated in the new air-raid shelter completed in the sub-basement of the hotel in 1941.
R. Buckminster Fuller, an engineer, inspects the entrance in 1941 to the bomb shelter which he invented, known as the Dymaxion Unit.
Mr. R. Buckminster Fuller, an inventor, relaxes inside bomb shelter he invented, on display at Museum of Modern Art, N.Y. in 1941.
The interior view of the Dymaxion Deployment Unit, a portable defense housing unit and bomb shelter made from steel grain bins and invented by Buckminster Fuller.
A housewife model smiles while posing with a display of bomb shelter supplies during the Cold War, 1950s.

People make their way to a shelter at Klein basement in Newark, New Jersey during an air raid in 1952.

A Long Island family sits in a 'Kidde Kokoon,' an underground bomb shelter manufactured by Walter Kidde Nuclear Laboratories, Garden City, New York, 1955.
Illustrations of recommended supplies (food, first aid, tools etc.) for stocking a family bomb shelter during the Cold War, 1960s

In a Christmas atmosphere, children of Los Angeles' 74th Street School, under the guidance of teachers, stage an air raid precaution brill and sit quietly in one of the school's main halls.

The boys and girls were moved from classrooms in the event of a raid and will be grouped in such corridors. Note the Christmas tree in the background.

Elementary school students practicing a 'Duck and Cover' air raid drill, Cleveland, Ohio, May 1951. 
School children and their teacher peer from beneath the table where they took refuge at Lafayette Street School when the sirens howled the alert in New Jersey's first state-wide air raid test in 1952.
Schoolchildren take part in an air raid drill at P.S. 58, at Smith Street and First Place in Brooklyn.
A group of Lower East Side residents enters their apartment building's air raid shelter in New York City for a drill in 1942.
Director Michael Curtiz, actor Dennis Morgan, actress Bette Davis, a studio workman, actress Irene Manning (L to R) are pictured as they chatted during a practice air raid drill on the Warner Bros. movie lot in 1942, in the first of a series of practice drills. 
First public civilian air raid drill in New York City. Here is one of the 'casualties' being carried out on a stretcher for practice. 

Smiling women are seated in the special air raid shelter built for employees of the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft division in Connecticut in 1942.

The shelter is built of concrete culvert pipe, five feet in diameter with walls three inches thick. Added protection is offered by bags of sand covering the entire structure. In addition, two ambulances and full personnel are stationed at the plant at all times.

Mr. and Mrs. John Schreiber and daughter Susan and Sidney Blanchard are seen standing in their new bomb shelter. 
A model for a fallout shelter, displayed in Grand Central Station, that is designed to accommodate a family of 5 to 6 for a prolonged period during a radioactive fallout in 1962.

"As head of STRATCOM, I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do," he said.

"And if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm going to say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' And guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up (with) options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."

Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: "If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life."

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hyten's remarks.

They came after questions by U.S. senators, including Democrats and Trump's fellow Republicans, about Trump's authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern that tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs could lead to hostilities.

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to "totally destroy" the country of 26 million people if it threatened the United States.

Some senators want legislation to alter the nuclear authority of the U.S. president and a Senate committee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing in more than four decades on the president's authority to launch a nuclear strike.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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