Trump Expresses Concern that AI Deepfakes Could Trigger Nuclear War

Former President Donald Trump expressed mixed feelings about artificial intelligence during a conversation with YouTuber Logan Paul on Thursday, describing the technology as a “superpower” that writes “beautifully” while also calling its capabilities “alarming.”

His comments on Paul’s podcast ‘Impaulsive’  provide insight into how the 78-year-old presidential candidate views the rapidly advancing technology, which a significant portion of Americans express concern about.

Fears of deepfakes increasing the risk of nuclear war

Trump recounted seeing a deepfake video of himself promoting a product that was so convincing it made him question its authenticity. He expressed worry about the potential for deepfakes to cause even greater harm, outlining a scenario where a deepfake video of the President of the United States stating, “we have just sent thirteen nuclear missiles…and they will hit their targets in 12 minutes and 59 seconds,” could trigger a preemptive retaliatory strike from a rival nation. Trump shared that he asked Elon Musk whether there would be any way for a leader to verify the authenticity of such a video; Musk reportedly responded, “there is no way.” 

The idea of misinformation escalating the risk of nuclear war is not purely theoretical. In September 1983, at the height of the Cold War, a Soviet early warning system mistakenly detected 5 incoming missiles. Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov chose to disregard the reports, potentially preventing a nuclear catastrophe. More recently, in December 2016, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif issued a threat towards Israel after falling victim to fake news. Experts warn that deepfakes could exacerbate the threat of nuclear escalation for years to come.

Energy challenges and competition with China

Trump emphasized his belief in the importance of the United States leading the way in AI development. “We have to take the lead over China,” he said, acknowledging the energy-intensive nature of AI systems. This energy is required both to power the computer chips used in training AI models and to prevent them from overheating. He went on to suggest that environmental concerns over energy consumption could “hold us back,” allowing China to surpass the United States. 

To date, computing chips and human talent—rather than energy—have been the most crucial factors for AI developers; however, in April, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned that energy could become a bottleneck in the future. For years, big tech companies have invested in clean energy to offset their carbon footprints, although China remains the leader in renewable energy.

The fear of environmentalists hindering the U.S. and allowing China to gain an advantage is a recurring theme for Trump, who in 2012 claimed “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He later acknowledged that climate change is not a hoax in January 2020, although he has been known to shift back and forth on this point.

Bipartisan consensus on AI risk

In the interview with Paul, Trump referred to Biden as “the worst president in the history of our country”— reflecting the polarized nature of American politics. However, concern for the risks posed by AI appears to transcend partisan divides.

In October last year, Biden signed an executive order which aimed to address some of AI’s dangers, including deepfakes, and to maintain U.S. dominance in AI. In May 2024, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), unveiled their “” that calls for the implementation of safeguards against these risks, while investing billions in the technology.

Trump recalled meeting “super geniuses” in San Francisco, who helped him understand AI. “They gave me $12 million for the campaign,” he said. “You know, four years ago they probably wouldn’t have.”

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