"A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his hands anywhere near the nuclear codes," said Hillary Clinton last September. She repeated the statement often in speeches and interviews, to the point where Donald Trump quipped that the line was getting "a little bit old" during the first presidential debate. "It's a good one, though," she retorted. "It well describes the problem." A stark reminder of Trump's constant proximity to these codes came on Monday after a member of the president's Mar-a-Lago golf resort identified the officer who carries the "nuclear football" in a Facebook post accompanied by a photo of the officer in question.
While the blunder can't be blamed on President Trump, who was busy at the time meeting with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe of Japan, the subsequently published photos showing the office walking just feet behind the president are yet another reminder of just how much power Trump now wields.
The "nuclear football," officially called the Presidential Emergency Satchel, contains the materials necessary to discharge nuclear weapons in situations where the Commander in Chief isn't at an established command center. The briefcase is required to be near the president on a constant basis, meaning several aides are designated with the duty to carry it.
U.S. presidents have unlimited, or nearly unlimited, control over the use of nuclear weapons. Unlike most other decisions presidents must make, they do not need the approval of neither Congress nor the Supreme Court to authorize the use nuclear warheads on other countries. There will undoubtedly come moments where during his presidency where Trump will be notified of a conflict overseas, moments where he'll have only minutes to digest the information coming his way and make life-or-death decisions.
Several incidents throughout Trump's presidential campaign raised concern regarding his tendency to make rash decisions and his lack of foreign policy knowledge. He notably asked Joe Scarborough why the U.S. shouldn't use nuclear weapons no less than three times during a Morning Joe interview. In another interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, he asked what the purpose of making and possessing such weapons is if they ultimately go unused. "Then why are we making them?" he asked. "Why do we make them?"
In an interview with ABC News' David Muir, Trump described the moment he received the nuclear codes after taking the inauguration oath. “When they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment, yes," he said. "It’s very, very scary, in a sense.”
Very, very scary indeed.