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Saturday, 27 February 2021 1.09 PM IST

How Trump's early White House departure has caused a logistical nightmare over the nuclear codes

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WASHINGTON DC: Donald Trump's decision to shun Joe Biden's inauguration has caused serious logistical problems for perhaps the most sensitive section of the presidential handover: the nuclear codes.

During a normal inauguration ceremony, the nuclear football, which contains the equipment the president uses to authenticate his orders and launch a nuclear strike, is handed over from one presidential aide to another at the stroke of noon.

Trump will leave Washington DC at around 8 am, however, and fly to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

As president, he will take the nuclear football with him.

Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, told CNN that the officials involved would have had to come up with an elaborate work-around.

'There are at least three to four identical 'footballs': one follows the president, one follows the vice president, and one traditionally is set aside for the designated survivor at events like inaugurations and State of the Union addresses,' he said.

'On 20 January, the extra footballs will be out of town somewhere with their designees, leaving just Mike Pence's briefcase unless the White House Military Office has prepared (or already has on hand) another backup for Mr Biden.'

The president carries with him at all times a plastic card, known as 'the biscuit,' which contains codes that identify the president, who is the only person authorized to launch nuclear weapons.

The Constitution gives Trump control of nuclear attacks until the very second that Biden is sworn in.

Trump's 'biscuit' will be deactivated at noon, and Biden's come in to force.

The aide with the 45-pound briefcase containing the nuclear football will then leave Florida and fly back to Washington DC.

Trump will become the first president since 1869 not to attend his successor's inauguration.

The Constitution does not require an outgoing president to attend an incoming president's inauguration, and Trump will be the fourth not to, after John Adams, the second U.S. president; John Quincy Adams, the sixth president; and Andrew Johnson, the 17th president and the first to be impeached. All three were also one-term presidents.

Attending a successor's inauguration is seen as an important sign of the stability of American democracy.

Woodrow Wilson, still in poor health after a debilitating stroke towards the end of his presidency, accompanied his successor Warren G. Harding on a ride to the U.S. Capitol, even though he was not well enough to attend the outdoor inauguration ceremony.

Trump has also reportedly not made up his mind if he will continue the tradition of writing a letter to leave for his successor in the Oval Office's Resolute desk.

Trump intends to hold a departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews on the morning of Biden's inauguration.

The ceremony may include a colour guard and a 21-gun salute, plus a red carpet and military band.

Invitations have been sent out for what the Trump team hoped was a rousing send-off.

Many, however, have said they will not attend. Guests are now being told they can bring up to five guests for the event.

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TAGS: DONALD TRUMP, JOE BIDEN, INAUGURATION, LOGISTICAL PROBLEM, NUCLEAR CODES, NUCLEAR FOOTBALL, CNN, MR BIDEN, MIKE PENCE, WASHINGTON DC
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