Donald Trump has refused to rule out dropping a nuclear bomb on Europe, saying he is not willing to “take any cards off the table”.

In an MSNBC interview which has already made headline for Mr Trump’s comments on punishing women for having abortions, the presidential candidate said if the US wasn’t willing to use its nuclear weapons, “why are we making them?”

Mr Trump did say he “would be the last one to use the nuclear weapons” and added his now-familiar line that he was “against Iraq” – which is not strictly the case.

“I would be very, very slow to pull that trigger,” Mr Trump said. “[But] if someone hits us with a nuke, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?”

Here’s the exchange with Chris Matthews in full:

Donald Trump: “First of all, you don’t want to say take everything off the table because you would be a bad negotiator if you do that.

Chris Matthews: “Just nuclear?”

DT: “Look, nuclear should be off the table, but would there be a time that it could be used? Possibly.”

CM: “The problem is when you say that, the whole world heard that. David Cameron heard that in Britain, the Japanese where we bombed them in ’45 heard it. They are hearing a guy running for President of the United States talking about maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.”

DT: “Then why are we are making them? Why do we make them?”

CM: “Because of the old mutually assured destruction, which Reagan hated and tried to get rid of.”

DT: “I was against Iraq, I would be the last one to use the nuclear weapons because that’s sort of like the end of the ball game.”

CM: “Can you tell the Middle East we’re not using nuclear weapons?”

DT: “I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.”

CM: “How about Europe? We won’t use in Europe?”

DT: “I’m not going to take it off the table for anybody.”

CM: “You’re going to use it in Europe?”

DT: “No! I don’t think so. But…”

CM: “Just say it, say ‘I’m not going to use a nuclear weapon in Europe’.”

DT: “I am not taking cards off the table. I’m not going to use nukes – but I’m not taking any cards off the table.”

CM: “The trouble is, the sane people hear you, and the insane people are not affected by your threats. The real fanatics say good, keep it up.”

DT: “I think they are more affected than you think.”

Earlier this week, Mr Trump struggled with another question on the nuclear issue when he was asked by right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt which of the US’s “triad” of weapons – by land, by sea or by air – was in most urgent need of an upgrade.

The candidate appeared not to understand the question, even when it was repeated, eventually responding: “I think – I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

David Cameron has previously said he would be willing to use nuclear bombs if an attack was “justified”, describing them as “the ultimate insurance policy”.

He was speaking in October last year, after opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said he could conceive of no circumstances in which he would order the use of a nuclear weapon.

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