The Pentagon’s inspector general’s office is conducting a review of safety protocols surrounding the briefcases containing launch codes that travel everywhere with U.S. presidents and vice presidents, more commonly known as “nuclear footballs.”
The Pentagon’s inspector general’s office opened the review in part because of how close one nuclear football came to rioters during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Then-Vice President Mike Pence was in Congress at the time accompanied by a military aide carrying one of the briefcases as pro-Trump rioters broke into the building.
While the football was never compromised Jan. 6, it has led the Pentagon to review its policies and test its response if one of the devices were “lost, stolen or compromised,” according to a Tuesday notice from the office obtained by Reuters.
The Capitol riot wasn’t the only time one of the nuclear footballs faced potential danger under former President Donald Trump. The military aide carrying Trump’s own briefcase during a trip to Beijing in 2017 got into a physical altercation with Chinese security personnel when they tried to stop him from following Trump into the Great Hall of the People, where he was set to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Another military aide saw the commotion and rushed to then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in another room, who then returned and ordered the aide to proceed into the building regardless of Chinese opposition. (RELATED: Biden Administration And NATO Blame China For Cyberattacks, Fall Short Of Punishing Country)
“Then there was a commotion,” Axios reported. “A Chinese security official grabbed Kelly, and Kelly shoved the man’s hand off of his body. Then a US secret service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground.”
“I’m told that at no point did the Chinese have the nuclear football in their possession or even touch the briefcase,” Axios reporter Jonathan Swan said of the incident. “I’m also told the head of the Chinese security detail apologised to the Americans afterwards for the misunderstanding.” Kelly, a retired general, reportedly refused to accept the apology.
“Tell them they can come apologize to me in Washington,” he said.
The Pentagon inspector general’s office has not announced a timeline for when its review might conclude.