Biden investiture: behind the scenes of the transfer of nuclear codes

What if Donald Trump wanted to use the nuclear bomb at the last minute? Ten days ago, the leader of the Democrats in the United States Congress Nancy Pelosi expressed her fears about the potential abuses of the Republican head of state by the end of his mandate. This fear has not existed since exactly noon on Wednesday, January 20.

At the precise moment that new President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in before the Bible, America’s nuclear weapon changed hands. The famous briefcase that Donald Trump held for four years has been deactivated. And for the first time in the country’s history, this transition required a two-step choreography. Due to the absence of Trump, who left earlier for his private residence in Florida, it was necessary to organize for another briefcase to be present in the stands of the Capitol. With inside another small plastic card containing the nuclear codes, nicknamed the “cookie”, and in principle to be kept by the president himself.

At 12:01, the Democratic President’s team was therefore expanded with a new military officer responsible for transporting “nuclear football”. This twenty-kilo suitcase, which contains all the elements necessary for a strike, must be near the American president at all times. It allows him to identify himself anywhere in the event of an enemy attack or initiative of the leader in office.

A card lost in the past

The US Constitution grants the President of the United States the exclusive power to order a nuclear strike. This right arouses all fantasies but in reality, it is then subordinated to the application by the Chief of Staff.

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“There are safeguards against illegal attack orders, whether nuclear or conventional. To be legal, orders must have a legitimate target, a clear military objective and use proportional forces, CNN recently recalled. This means that if Trump were to attempt to order a strike at 12:01 am Wednesday, the order would be considered illegal and the military commanders responsible for carrying out the launch are forced to refuse ”. At 12:01, Donald Trump was therefore relieved of this power. And his briefcase left in the wake of Washington.

There are a total of three cases and three “cookies”. One to follow the president, one to the vice president’s offices in case something happens to the president, and one in reserve, in the hands of the so-called “designated survivor”. People who “carry the nuclear balloon are subject to in-depth psychological assessments to determine if they are up to the task,” the British daily The Guardian reported in 2016.

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A former Minister of Defense, William Perry, has called in recent days Joe Biden to “get rid of football”. He considers the current system “undemocratic, outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous”. Also according to the Guardian, in the 1970s, Jimmy Carter inadvertently lost his card when sending a suit to the dry cleaners. Worse, twenty later, Bill Clinton would have mislaid him “for months”, told in his memoirs General Hugh Shelton, who was then chief of staff of the armies.

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