Military officials in charge of monitoring the authorization of a nuclear strike were unaware of how much danger then-Vice President Mike Pence’s “nuclear football” was in during the Capitol riot, CNN reports.
The vice president is always near their own backup of the equipment used to order a nuclear launch in case the president is incapacitated. However, an official told CNN that U.S. Strategic Command was not aware of the potential danger that the equipment was in during the Capitol riot, when Pence, his aide carrying the “football,” and several Secret Service agents were forced to run to safety inside the Capitol, only learning “the gravity of the incident,” in CNN’s words, once the footage was shown at former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial this week.
“As the rioters reached the top of the stairs, they were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family, and they were just feet away from one of the doors to this chamber,” said Del. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who is one of the impeachment managers, on Wednesday.
Some people in the crowd standing in the doorway of the Capitol can be heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence” in the video.
“The risk associated with the insurrectionists getting their hands on Pence’s football wasn’t that they could have initiated an unauthorized launch. But had they stolen the football and acquired its contents, which include pre-planned nuclear strike options, they could have shared the contents with the world,” said Kingston Reif, nuclear weapons policy expert with the nonpartisan Arms Control Association.
“Such an outcome would have been a security breach of almost incomprehensible proportions,” Reif added. “And it ought to raise further questions about the rationale for the anachronism that is the football.”
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