Editor's Note: A White House official referred to Trump's comment as "trolling."
During a photo-op ahead of a dinner with high-ranking military officials and their spouses Thursday night, President Donald Trump made a "foreboding" remark that immediately provoked fears that the United States could launch yet another war.
"You guys know what this represents?" Trump asked reporters gathered in the State Dining Room. "Maybe it's the calm before the storm. Could be the calm, the calm before the storm."
When asked by reporters to explain, Trump refused, saying: "You'll find out."
TRUMP: "Maybe it's the calm before the storm."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 5, 2017
REPORTER: "What storm Mr. President?"
TRUMP: "You'll find out." (via Satellite News) pic.twitter.com/bWMzGrDPNa
The comment came following a meeting between Trump and military leaders, during which both Iran and North Korea were reportedly discussed.
Regarding North Korea, Trump said military officials are prepared to provide him "a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace."
And as the Washington Post first reported on Thursday, Trump is planning to decertify the Iran nuclear accord some time next week -- a move critics are denouncing as a step in the direction of military conflict.
Commentators and lawmakers immediately expressed alarm at the president's cryptic comments.
This is terrifying. https://t.co/zvg1dUPTYB— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) October 6, 2017
Only a sociopath would think it's funny to tease chaos and put Americans through daily psychological torture. https://t.co/lXyPV1okPO— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) October 6, 2017
This is beyond irresponsible. Trump's triggering widespread panic -- and he seems perfectly okay with it. This alone = impeach. https://t.co/zRpRxFZoEu— Bob Cesca (@bobcesca_go) October 6, 2017
Extremely disturbing how the president teases war like it's a fun thing for us all to do. https://t.co/ylS6NDYMlZ— Cody Johnston (@drmistercody) October 6, 2017
Following Trump's remarks, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) urged his colleagues to support his bill that would bar the president from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval.