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Trump Ditching Biden Inauguration Complicates “Nuclear Football” Handoff

Virtually nothing about the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States falls into the category of “normal.” The swearing in will take place at an ultra-fortified U.S. Capitol in front of a sparse, socially distanced crowd. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebratory parade will be virtual, a collection of televised events from across the country. And for the first time in more than 100 years, the outgoing president, who still has not acknowledged Biden’s legitimate election, will not be there to participate in the democracy’s peaceful transfer of power.

Since Donald Trump technically still will be commander in chief Wednesday morning when he throws himself a goodbye party at Joint Base Andrews before flying off to Florida, a military aide will accompany him with the so-called “nuclear football.” The football actually is a satchel that contains the equipment and authorities the president needs to authenticate his orders to launch a nuclear strike.

(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Typically, if both outgoing and incoming presidents were on the inauguration viewing stand the football physically would be handed off from one military aide to another. But because they’ll be in different locations, a second football will be on hand in Washington, D.C., and at the precise moment that Biden completes reciting his oath of office the one with him will become active and the one with Trump, wherever he might be at that moment, will be deactivated.

Presidents also are required at all times to carry a plastic card with them known as the “biscuit.” The biscuit contains alphanumeric codes that are used to positively identify the president. Biden will receive his biscuit Wednesday morning when he and Kamala Harris are briefed on the process of initiating a nuclear strike.

Once Biden assumes the presidency the military aide carrying the then inactive football then will need to hop on a plane for a return trip to Washington, D.C.



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