The president was on the course at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, after the alert was issued at 1:09 p.m. EST, according to press pool reports. His motorcade didn’t leave the club for Mar-a-Lago until 1:38 p.m.
Although Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency quickly tweeted that the initial warning was an error, it took 38 minutes before a second mobile alert declared the first a false alarm. Officials said the wrong button had been pushed.
As of Saturday evening, Trump had not issued any personal statement — or tweet — about the scare. He did tweet about “fake news” and again called journalist Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, a “fake book.” He described Wolff as “mentally deranged.”
It’s not clear exactly when Trump learned of the alert, although presumably the president would be informed of any potential threat immediately.
White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement that the president had been “briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise.”
“This was purely a state exercise,” she added.
A White House official told CNN that the president was briefed in person by national security adviser H.R. McMaster, deputy national security adviser Ricky Waddell and White House chief of staff John Kelly.
A senior administrative official told Politico that there was no military response around the president during the incident because there was no actual threat detected by the military. The source also said that Trump’s Cabinet hasn’t yet tested plans for how they would respond in such an attack
Former Pentagon official Col. Morris Davis criticized the president in a tweet for continuing his round of golf on his “taxpayer funded vacation” as Hawaiians “braced for a ballistic missile strike.”
Former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) tweeted that Trump was “somewhere on the back nine” while “1.5 million American citizens” were told to seek shelter.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was quickly informed of the alert error and assured Hawaiians in a tweet that there was “no incoming missile,” even before the second alert went out.
She didn’t criticize Trump for golfing. But she did complain that the president was neither taking the nuclear threat from North Korea seriously enough nor dealing with it wisely.
A former Pentagon communications director during the Obama administration quipped that “thank God” Trump was playing golf during the false alarm.
Trump frequently criticized Barack Obama for golfing when he was in office, suggesting that he was neglecting his presidential duties.