Transfer of nuclear football to Biden will happen without Trumps attendance

The handing off of the “nuclear football.”, which is one of the most important moments of Inauguration Day will have a little impact as President Donald Trump will not be in attendance Wednesday to watch as his successor Joe Biden is sworn into office.

The “football,” which contains the equipment that Trump would use to authenticate his orders and launch a nuclear strike, is carried by a military aide who accompanies the President at all times up to the second, he officially leaves office on January 20.


Typically, the football would be handed off to another military aide standing on or nearby the inauguration viewing stand as Biden takes his oath of office.

But on Wednesday, that exchange will happen a bit differently as Trump is currently expected to depart Washington, DC, for Florida before Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

The nuclear football will likely travel with him, experts say, meaning there will be at least two briefcases in different locations, presenting a unique challenge of ensuring the transfer of authority goes smoothly.

While that process may play out slightly differently than it has in years past, there are safeguards in place to ensure a seamless transition of nuclear control from one president to the next, regardless of circumstance, according to Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Contrary to popular belief, nuclear football does not contain a button or code that can automatically launch a nuclear weapon but instead has the equipment and authorities that Trump would use to order a strike.

Trump will no longer have such authority and the nuclear codes he carries will automatically be deactivated, he added. Meanwhile, Biden will automatically inherit the power to launch a nuclear strike at exactly the same time.

That means if Trump attempted to order a strike at 12:01 pm on Wednesday, the order would be considered illegal and military commanders tasked with carrying out the launch are obligated to refuse.