The Nuclear Football Is Getting Passed in an Unprecedented Way

One will accompany Trump to Florida, while another will await Biden to be sworn in in DC
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2021 8:09 AM CST
How to Pass the Nuclear Football From 1K Miles Away
President Donald Trump arrives on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, after returning from Texas, on Jan. 12.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

There will be at least two briefcases containing the authorization codes necessary to launch a nuclear strike in the US floating around on Inauguration Day. One "nuclear football" is expected to accompany President Trump to Florida on Wednesday morning ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony in Washington, DC, at noon, reports CNN. "Up to that point in time, [Trump] has the sole, legal authority to authorize the use of any or all of the US nuclear arsenal," Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, tells the outlet. As Trump loses his authority to launch a nuclear strike at noon, however, the military aide in charge of carrying the briefcase is expected to depart with it. At the same time, 1,000 miles away, an identical briefcase will be passed to an aide accompanying Biden in Washington, Schwartz says.

This might be the briefcase typically designated for Vice President Mike Pence or another version prepared for Biden, Schwartz notes. Biden is likely to receive his "biscuit"—a plastic card containing alphanumeric codes used to positively identify the president, such as in cases of a nuclear strike—before his inauguration, though the codes won't become active until noon. Concurrently, Trump's "biscuit" will become inactive. This unique transfer will make up one small part of a larger, unprecedented inauguration. Trump is the first president not to attend his successor's inauguration since Andrew Johnson in 1869, per Bloomberg. Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will be greeted Wednesday by the White House chief usher, as their predecessors will have already departed Joint Base Andrews on Air Force One, per the Guardian. A sendoff ceremony is planned for 8am. (More Inauguration Day stories.)

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