In private, Trump has expressed himself more vividly, these current and former officials say.

“He literally just said we should get the ships out there and do a naval embargo,” said one source who’s heard the president’s comments. “Prevent anything going in.”

“I’m assuming he’s thinking of the Cuban missile crisis,” the source added. “But Cuba is an island and Venezuela is a massive coastline. And Cuba we knew what we were trying to prevent from getting in. But here what are we talking about? It would need massive, massive amounts of resources; probably more than the U.S. Navy can provide.”

Hawkish GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, has a different perspective about the value of a show of military force. “I’ve been saying for months that when the Venezuelan military sees an American military presence gathering force, this thing ends pretty quickly,” he told me.