A tense pair of back and forth messages had everyone on edge this week, but also raised a lot of questions.
In a New Year's speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned President Trump about the power of his country's military, including their nuclear weapons. He included a warning that "a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office." But the president didn't back down from the threat.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the "Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times." Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
In a tweet, the president bragged that he had his own "Nuclear Button," and that his was much bigger. The message left many Americans wondering if there really was a button to launch nuclear weapons sitting on the president's desk.
There isn't. But that doesn't mean the president isn't prepared to launch a nuclear attack at any time.
Instead of a button, launching such an attack would involve a Football and a Biscuit.
The Football is a briefcase that follows the president 24/7, carried by a military aide. The designated briefcase holder follows the president everywhere, including into any elevators, in case they get stuck.
If the president needs to launch a nuclear strike, he would start by opening the Football. But he won't find any buttons inside.
Launching a nuclear strike is (thankfully) pretty complicated, which is why the Football is so heavy.
Inside you'll find:
- Pre-made war plans
- A list of shelter locations for the president
- Communications equipment and instructions for that equipment
- Authentication codes for nuclear strikes
To actually launch a missile, there's a game of telephone from the president to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, America's highest ranking military officer.
They pass the message along to a submarine, missile silo or ship, which compares the authentication codes with their own "safe codes."
But a launch also takes another item, called the Biscuit, which the president carries with him at all times. The Biscuit is the actual list of secret codes which identify the president as himself.
When President Trump was handed the codes after his inauguration, he revealed the moment was "very scary."
"When they explain what it represents, and the kind of destruction that you're talking about, it is a very sobering moment," he told ABC News.
Despite all the secrecy and rules, things do go wrong. A military aide revealed that President Bill Clinton kept his biscuit tied to his credit cards with a rubber band, and was known for misplacing them.
General Hugh Shelton says the president actually lost his biscuit "for months." Now that's a scary thought!
I never knew this was so complicated!