Trump and UFOs: The Greatest Hits

The truth is up there? Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Getty Images

As part of his anti-malarkey platform, Joe Biden has promised a return to presidential norms — a net positive for many Americans who don’t want their president to issue war threats on Twitter and dog whistle to white supremacists. But for those whose policy priorities are focused on the great beyond, a return to business as usual may not be such a welcome prospect: At least during the Trump years, one could expect the occasional comment from the president on UFOs.

In part because Trump (coincidentally) presided over a halcyon age of UFO developments, and in part because he’s prone to saying whatever’s on his mind, aliens had a good four years in the news cycle. Though Trump is hardly a true believer and didn’t live up to the expectations that he’d blurt out everything the government knows on the subject (he often seemed more bored than excited by the whole thing), he did crack open the door on certain secrets. Below is a chronology of Trump’s most notable UFO moments.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she will “circle back” on Trump’s UFO beliefs.

In December 2017, the New York Times reported on the existence of a $22 million Pentagon program that investigated unidentified aerial phenomena from 2007 until 2012, one of the biggest breaks ever in the pursuit to get the federal government to acknowledge purported UFO programs. Days later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could neither confirm nor deny if Trump cared about the development. “Somehow that question hasn’t come up in our back-and-forth over the last couple days. But I will check into that and be happy to circle back.” It made sense that aliens hadn’t come up in conversation, as it was a busy month for Trump, who was encouraging the good people of Alabama to vote for a credibly accused child predator.

Trump says “we’re watching” the skies for aliens.

In 2019, senators were reportedly “coming out of the woodwork” to be briefed on extraterrestrial developments after the Times reported in June of that year that Navy pilots were seeing unidentified aircraft off the eastern seaboard on an almost-daily basis in 2014 and 2015.

“I want them to think whatever they think,” Trump said of the Navy pilots in an interview that month, sounding more like a supportive parent than the commander-in-chief. “I did have one very brief meeting on it,” he added. “But people are saying they’re seeing UFOs. Do I believe it? Not particularly.”

Trump, the first sitting president to admit to a briefing on aliens, did so quite casually, suggesting that either the evidence is sparse or, perhaps, he’s constitutionally incapable of paying attention to something that does not directly involve him. Nevertheless, he did display his showman’s flair in promoting this space race, telling George Stephanopoulos that “we’re watching” for aliens, “and you’ll be the first to know.”

That’s one “hell of a video.”

In April 2020, the Pentagon officially released three infrared videos featuring unidentified flying objects traveling at high speeds and making near-impossible turns. “As I got close to it … it rapidly accelerated to the south, and disappeared in less than two seconds,” explained retired U.S. Navy pilot David Fravor, who recorded one of the encounters. “This was extremely abrupt, like a ping pong ball, bouncing off a wall. It would hit and go the other way.”

Trump, despite being a big fan of expansive executive power when it benefits him, made it sound like he didn’t have the clearance to learn more about the clips. “I just wonder if it’s real,” he said. “That’s a hell of a video.”

Two months later, he played coy again in an interview with his eldest son on Father’s Day. When Donald Trump Jr. asked his father if he would ever tell the public about an alleged incident at Roswell in 1947, Trump said, “I won’t talk to you about what I know about it, but it’s very interesting.”

Trump vows to “take a good, strong look” at UFOs.

Days after contracting the coronavirus, Trump said in an interview that he would “take a good, strong look” at a government program on UFOs.

In the interview, which took place on Fox News on October 11, Trump said that he had only heard about the Pentagon’s August announcement of a task force to investigate UFOs “two days ago,” again suggesting his overall lack of interest on the subject — a curious incuriousness, considering that there’d been a classified briefing ahead of that task force detailing “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”

A former Israeli space official thinks Trump knows more than he’s letting on.

Granted, Trump is letting on very little.

In an interview in early December, Haim Eshed, the former head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s space directorate, gave a sprawling interview to the nation’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper. Among other claims, he said that aliens “have asked not to publish that they are here [because] humanity is not ready yet.” The respected professor and former general added that he believed Trump knew of their existence and was “on the verge of revealing” the blockbuster details, but was asked not to, so that “mass hysteria would not break out.” Eshed also claimed there “is an agreement between the U.S. government and the aliens. They signed a contract with us to do experiments here.” The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

And officials fear Trump could spill state secrets once he’s out of office.

The president hasn’t been stellar about keeping classified information under wraps, accidentally confirming the open secret that the U.S. has nuclear weapons in Turkey, and informing Bob Woodward that “we have stuff that you haven’t ever seen or heard about” in a conversation about the nuclear stockpile. According to legal and national security officials who spoke with the Washington Post, there’s worry that Trump will be even less careful with his words once he sets off on his next career venture. “A knowledgeable and informed president with Trump’s personality characteristics, including lack of self-discipline, would be a disaster,” Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel under George W. Bush, told the paper. Goldsmith added that it was luck for the security apparatus that Trump “hasn’t been paying attention.”

And it’s quite possible that Trump won’t ever think about UFOs again, unless the topic slips onscreen during one of his daily binges of television news.

But in the past few decades, several retired military and political figures have come out during their retirements with new information on government research around UFOs, including former CIA directors John Brennan and Roscoe Hillenkoetter, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer. Considering the sense of relaxation Trump clearly feels at Mar-a-Lago — where he has previously discussed matters of national security in the open — it’s not too far-fetched to imagine the ex-president admitting to extraterrestrial life on Earth while enjoying a well-done steak, spilling ketchup and state secrets all over the nice white tablecloth.

Trump and UFOs: The Greatest Hits