How ‘nuclear football’ handover to occur at inauguration in Trump’s absence
US President Donald Trump’s decision to not attend the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden on Thursday will be one of the rarest moment in the history of the country’s transition of power. The outgoing president plans to leave on Wednesday morning for his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is supposed to begin his post-presidency life.
Trump’s absence means there would a slight change in plan in the handing over of the “nuclear football”, a black briefcase which contains the equipment that the commander-in-chief would use to authorise and launch a nuclear strike. The football is carried by a military aide who accompanies the president all the time.
In normal circumstances, the football would have been handed over to another military aide standing near inauguration stand during the oath-taking ceremony. According to a CNN report, the nuclear football accompanying Trump is likely to travel with him to his resort in Florida.
Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, told CNN that there are at least three to four identical footballs. One briefcase follows the president, one follows the vice president and one is set aside for the “designated survivors” at significant events like inaugurations and State of the Union addresses.
Trump has currently the sole legal authority to authorise the use of the nuclear arsenal, which would transfer to Biden at 12pm on January 20. The US president carries “biscuit”, a plastic card with alphanumeric codes, with them all the time which is used to identify the commander-in-chief. The codes for Trump will become invalid once he loses his presidential power. Biden is likely to receive his “biscuit” on the morning of inauguration day, which will become active at 12pm that day.
In the aftermath of US Capitol riots, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had contacted the Pentagon's top general, Mark Milley, to understand how to prevent "an unhinged president" from ordering a nuclear strike. Concerns arising from Trump’s power to launch a nuclear weapon, Pelosi had also called on vice president Mike Pence to invoke the constitution's 25th amendment to remove the president from power.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- Earlier this month, Nasa safely landed its Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater, determined as an ancient lakebed that formed billions of years ago.
- Mayor Jacob Frey and Gov. Tim Walz, both Democrats, were sharply criticized for failing to move faster to stop last summer's looting and destruction.