Former Vice-President Mike Pence had the nuclear football on Jan. 6 when he was forced to flee a mob of Trump supporters closing in on the Capitol chanting “hang Mike Pence”.
According to CNN, military officials overseeing the authorization process to launch nuclear weapons were unaware that Pence’s military aide carrying the nuclear football was in danger until they saw the video played by House impeachment managers on Wednesday.
The backup “football” of equipment and nuclear codes needed to launch a strike is identical to the one carried by officials near the president. It always follows the second in command in case the president becomes incapacitated.
Even if the rioters had gotten control of the ‘football’ they would have been unable to use it due to the security controls. The risk was the rioters stealing the football and acquiring its contents, “which include pre-planned nuclear strike options, they could have shared the contents with the world,” Kingston Reif, an expert on nuclear weapons policy at the nonpartisan Arms Control Association, explained to CNN.
“Such an outcome would have been a security breach of almost incomprehensible proportions. And it ought to raise further questions about the rationale for the anachronism that is the football,” Reif added.
It’s the latest development that shows the national security risks that Trump supporters breaching the Capitol poses. One rioter, Riley June Williams has been accused of stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during the raid, then tried to sell it to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.
The Pentagon has declined to comment on the Pence video because of the sensitivity surrounding nuclear weapons issues. The National Security Council also declined to comment, CNN reports.