The nuclear codes are now in the full control of President Donald Trump. It was one of the greatest fears of Americans who opposed voting the billionaire real estate tycoon into the nation’s highest office. At times he seemed irreverent about nuclear arms throughout the presidential campaign, but the reality has hit him since gaining possession of the codes.
President Donald Trump was briefed about the nuclear codes on the morning of his inauguration. The meeting took place at an unknown location where senior military officials apprised the incoming president of what the nuclear arsenal was capable of… and the level of destruction it held. It’s a moment described by former administration officials as “sobering.”
— The Hill (@thehill) January 26, 2017
The Hill recapped a portion of President Trump’s interview ABC’s David Muir on Wednesday about the briefing he received on the nuclear codes. Trump described it as a “sobering moment.”
“When they explain what is represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment, yes. It’s very, very scary, in a sense.”
When Muir asked President Trump that if having the nuclear codes keeps him up at night, the commander-in-chief said he knows he’ll make the right decision if he’s put in such a situation.
“No but it’s, I have confidence that I’ll do the right thing, the right job. But it’s a very, very scary thing.”
As Politico reports, the classified briefing on the nuclear codes is a rite of passage that can be haunting for incoming presidents. Andrew Card, former chief of staff during President George W. Bush’s presidency, was with him during the nuclear codes briefing. He characterized it as a “sobering moment.” Card said that it “defines the ultimate obligation that you might have” as a president. He added that it’s a “very military” briefing, one that is “not a briefing of the conscience. It’s by-the-book; it’s rote.”
President Obama was one of the millions of Americans who were mortified at the very thought of Trump gaining access to the nuclear codes. At a rally in October, Obama asserted that the idea of the codes getting into Trump’s hands was a terrible prospect.
“How can you trust him with the nuclear codes? You can’t do it.”
As the report states, everywhere President Trump a military aide will be at his side carrying a 45-pound black satchel that has also been dubbed the nuclear “football.” The precious cargo consists of codes, war plans, and communication tools needed to launch a nuclear war.
President Trump has been instructed on the irreversible steps he’d have to take if he ordered a nuclear launch that potentially will kill hundreds of millions of people.
Details of what the briefings entail for incoming presidents regarding the nuclear codes is minimal, but ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos, wrote in a 1999 memoir about his observation of former President Bill Clinton’s reaction following the briefing at 7 a.m. on the day of his inauguration; Stephanopoulos was Clinton’s spokesperson at the time.
“The man who would soon command the most powerful military force in the world emerged … silent and more somber than I’d ever seen him.”
Stephanopoulos also wrote of the time that George H.W. Bush’s outgoing national security adviser, retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, “slipped out of Blair House and into the street with tears reddening the rims of his eyes.”
— ABC News (@ABC) January 26, 2017
Despite President Trump’s penchant for acting impulsively on certain matters and ranting frequently on Twitter, he told an audience at a March 2016 town hall on MSNBC that using nuclear weapons would be a last resort for him.
“I’d be the last one to use the nuclear weapons, because that’s sort of like the end of the ballgame.”
The briefing that President Trump received on inauguration day didn’t involve detailed strategies, but the core essentials of starting a nuclear war, nuclear experts and U.S. officials say. Presidents attend separate sessions in which scenarios “from an all-out attack on Russia to war with China to limited strikes against rogue nations like North Korea,” according to the report.
[Featured Image by Olivier Doulier/Getty Images]