How Trump passes “nuclear football” to Biden


Typically, football is handed over to another military assistant who stands at or near the inaugural spectator station while Biden is sworn in.

On Wednesday, however, this exchange will happen a little differently, as Trump is expected to leave Washington, Washington to Florida before Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

Nuclear football is likely to travel with it, experts say, meaning there will be at least two briefcases in different locations, which will be a unique challenge in ensuring the smooth conduct of the transfer of power.

While this process may change somewhat differently than in recent years, there are safeguards to ensure a smooth transition from nuclear control to presidential, regardless of the circumstances, according to Stephen Schwartz, a non-resident senior fellow in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

The transfer of “football”

Contrary to popular belief, nuclear football does not contain a button or code that could automatically launch a nuclear weapon, instead it has equipment and authorities with which Trump would order a strike.

“There are at least three or four identical‘ footballers ’: one follows the president, one follows the vice president, and one is traditionally set aside for the designated survivor at events such as inaugurations and the titles of the state of the Union,” Schwartz says. .

“On January 20th [the extra footballs] they will be out of town somewhere with their nominees, just leave [Vice President Mike] Pence’s briefcase, unless the White House Military Office has made (or already has) another backup for Biden, “he told CNN.

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In addition, the President is obliged to bring a plastic card known as a “biscuit” at all times. The biscuit contains alphanumeric codes that positively identify the president, who has exclusive legal authority to authorize nuclear launch.

The reason is explicitly set out in the Constitution, which gives Trump full authority over the U.S. nuclear arsenal until the second Biden is sworn in at noon Wednesday.

“Under Amendment 20 – and missing Amendment 25, which makes Mike Pence the Executive Chairman – Donald Trump will be President until 11:59:59 on January 20. Until then, the United States will have exclusive legal authority. to use all or part of its nuclear arsenal, ”Schwartz said.

“If one of the football employees accompanies Trump on Air Force One to Florida, that assistant will remove himself from Trump’s presence at noon and return to Washington DC with his briefcase,” Schwartz added.

Delegation of power

After that, Trump will no longer have that power, and the nuclear codes he carries will automatically shut down, he added. Meanwhile, Biden will automatically inherit the force needed to launch a nuclear strike.

This means that if Trump tries to order a strike at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, the order would be considered illegal and the military commanders in charge of carrying out the launch would be denied it.

The transition to this authority is ensured by the fact that the codes that Trump would use to authenticate his presidential identity will become invalid. Meanwhile, Biden is likely to receive the “biscuit” Wednesday morning when he and presumably elected Vice President Kamala Harris are briefed on the process of launching a nuclear strike.

But their codes will only be active at noon on Wednesday.

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Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the House of Democrats that she had spoken to the president, General Mark Milley, to discuss Trump’s access to nuclear codes while asking the president to resign. a violent pro-Trump crowd stormed the American Capitol.

“This morning, I spoke with Mark Milley, the joint president of the Chiefs of Staff, to discuss the precautions available to prevent the unstable president from initiating military hostilities, accessing the launch codes, and ordering a nuclear strike,” Pelosi wrote in his letter. “The situation of this unwavering president cannot be more dangerous, and we must do everything we can to protect the American people from an unbalanced attack on our country and our democracy.”

After speaking to Milley, Pelosi told his House of Representatives that he had received assurances that there were assurances that Trump wanted to launch a nuclear weapon, according to several sources, the House of Representatives had called.

Senior military officials say that while the president has exclusive authority to launch nuclear weapons, he alone cannot do so.

If an opponent were to launch a missile in the United States, the president would immediately be on a qualified communications network, receiving minute-by-minute intelligence and suggestions on how to proceed.

There are safeguards against illegal attack orders, whether nuclear or conventional. For legitimacy, orders must have a legitimate aim, a clear military purpose, and proportionate forces.

The general, who has recently commanded strategic weapons and is now in second place in the Pentagon, is adamant that the military will not carry out illegal instructions from any president.

“If it’s illegal, will you figure out what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr. President, this is illegal.’ And you’re going to figure out what you’re going to do? You’re going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ to the situation, and that’s how it works. It’s not that complicated, ”said General John Hyten, former commander of U.S. Strategic Command. 2017.

If a president persists in pushing for illegal orders, the military commander has no choice but to resign.

CNN employee Barbara Starr contributed to the report.