Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol last month were perilously close to the nuclear “football” with launch codes that accompanied then-Vice President Mike Pence, revealed a chilling video presented at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
An unnamed Pentagon official told CNN on Thursday that U.S. Strategic Command became aware of the potential threat to the football after spotting it in the video.
Capitol surveillance footage presented Wednesday at the Senate trial shows Pence followed by the Air Force officer carrying the large black briefcase holding the tech equipment and classified nuclear codes to launch a strike. At that moment, Secret Service agents can be seen hustling Pence — along with his wife, daughter and brother — away from rioters who had breached the Capitol about 35 minutes earlier and had been shouting, “Hang Mike Pence!”
Pence’s backup nuclear football is a clone of the one carried by officials near the president and can be used if the president becomes incapacitated.
“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,” explained Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), one of the impeachment managers, as she played the video.
Had rioters managed to wrest the nuclear football away from the military officer, backed up by Secret Service agents, they would not have been able to launch an attack, explained several experts. But it holds extremely valuable information sought by enemy nations.
It “would have been a security breach of almost incomprehensible proportions,” Kingston Reif, an expert on nuclear weapon policy at the Arms Control Association, told CNN.
“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,” he added.
The encrypted communications equipment would tell an adversary how the U.S. would respond to a major attack, Hans Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The Guardian.
“They could glean all sorts of information … so it’s very significant,” he added.
The Pentagon official, however, insisted to CNN that the information is protected by security controls.
The Air Force officer never lost control of the football, and it was never deactivated, the official told CNN.
Check out the video up top. The Air Force officer near Pence can been seen holding the large black briefcase with the football at 2:12.
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