Jimmy Carter shared in a recent interview that he watches PBS, CNN, and MSNBC, but steers clear of Fox and social media

Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter are seen ahead of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals, in Atlanta. Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. It marks the first time the couple, 96 and 93, will have missed the ceremonies since Carter was sworn-in as the 39th president in 1977.
Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter don’t watch much Fox News.

  • Former President Jimmy Carter watches PBS “NewsHour” nightly and regularly catches up on CNN and MSNBC.
  • He and his wife, Rosalynn, largely steer clear of Fox News and social media.
  • “We have a very good balance of news coverage,” Carter said in an interview that aired Monday.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter are devoted fans of the PBS “NewsHour,” the former president said in an interview that aired Monday evening.

They watch the show every night, Carter told “NewsHour” host Judy Woodruff as he described the couple’s news consumption. “We watch MSNBC and CNN pretty regularly,” he added.

They “don’t watch Fox presentations very much,” Carter said, nor do they “really become involved” in social media. “So we have a fairly good balance of the news coverage.”

Carter, 96, and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 93, spoke to Woodruff from their home in Plains, Georgia, for a wide-ranging interview as they prepare to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on July 7. Carter is now the longest-living president in US history.

In addition to their news habits, the couple discussed unfounded claims made by President Donald Trump and his supporters that he won the 2020 presidential election.

“It’s known, quite accurately, as the big lie,” Carter said. “And how he – how Trump – gets away with it is hard to comprehend.”

It’s “hard for me to know what was happening and then to hear what was being said about it,” Rosalynn Carter said.

Asked whether she ever thought that the Carter Center would be involved in monitoring elections in her home state, she said, “No, I never thought we’d have to monitor elections in Georgia. I just assumed elections were accurate. I trusted our officials.”

Read more: Jimmy, Rosalynn Carter look back at 75 years of marriage: ‘It’s a full partnership’

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Roger Stone said Michael Flynn should be ‘drafted’ by Trump supporters for 2024 run if Trump decides not to

roger stone
Roger Stone.

  • Roger Stone said if former President Donald Trump doesn’t run for office again, Michael Flynn should be drafted by his supporters.
  • “I think we need one candidate who can galvanize the America First movement,” Stone told right-wing news outlet Newsmax.
  • Flynn is a former national security advisor who Trump pardoned in November 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Roger Stone said if former president Donald Trump does not run for office in 2024, former national security advisor Michael Flynn “should be drafted” by his supporters.

Stone is a longtime Trump ally and former campaign advisor. He was previously convicted of multiple felonies linked to Russia inference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump later pardoned Stone in December 2020.

Flynn is also a staunch Trump ally who was pardoned by the then-president last November after he pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to investigators as part of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference, as Insider’s Sonam Sheth reported.

Flynn and Stone are both high-profile conspiracy theory peddlers who have remained supportive of Trump by touting baseless claims including those related to the 2020 presidential election.

Stone told right-wing news outlet Newsmax on Saturday that Flynn is currently “not a candidate for anything,” but he would back his candidacy if Trump doesn’t enter the 2024 race.

He is not interested in running for public office, but he is interested in helping save this country,” Stone told Newsmax.

“If President Trump decides to run, I am 100% in his corner. He is my first choice in 2024, he’s been my first choice since 1988” he said. “In the event that he decides not to run, I think we need one candidate who can galvanize the America First movement.”

Stone compared Flynn to President Dwight Eisenhower, a “non-politician” who he said “should be drafted by the American people” and Trump’s supporters.

Despite his repeating of baseless election fraud claims and an impeachment trial over his alleged role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Trump has remained at the forefront of reports around the GOP bid in the 2024 election.

Most recently, Trump told Fox News in April he was “very seriously” considering a 2024 run. Insider’s Thomas Colson previously reported that some top Republican figures, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said they would back the former president’s potential run.

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Toshiba’s CEO has stepped down but board members planned to oust him before the controversy over a $20 billion buyout bid, sources say

Toshiba Corp Chief Executive Nobuaki Kurumatani
Toshiba Corp chief executive Nobuaki Kurumatani.

  • Toshiba board members planned to replace Nobuaki Kurumatani before the buyout bid, sources said.
  • Kurumatani resigned from Toshiba on Wednesday. Chairman Satoshi Tsunakawa will replace him.
  • The board chairman Osamu Nagayama went to a meeting “to fire” him, one of the sources told Reuters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Toshiba board members planned to oust CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani before CVC Capital Partners launched a $20 billion buyout bid last week, sources told Reuters.

Kurumatani on Wednesday resigned from Toshiba. Chairman Satoshi Tsunakawa, who led the company beforehand, will replace him.

The board told Kurumatani the day before the offer was announced that they would replace him, sources who didn’t want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue told Reuters.

On the subject of Kurumatani stepping down, Toshiba told Insider: “It is a resignation in the middle of the CEO’s term of office, which is unusual, but the resignation is decided by Mr. Kurumatani himself and should be respected.”

Two members of Toshiba Corp’s nomination committee, including board chairman Osamu Nagayama, met Kurumatani, himself a former CVC executive, before the buyout bid and told him they were looking for a new CEO, sources told Reuters.

Although the board hadn’t formally started the process of replacing Kurumatani, the plan was already in motion, Reuters reported. Nagayama, who also heads the nomination committee, went to the meeting “to fire” him, one of the sources said.

Reuters reported that Kurumatani then informed them of the European private equity firm’s plan to take Toshiba private. A day later, the Japanese conglomerate announced it had received the offer, two sources added.

The events of the meeting show how Kurumatani’s tenure was undone by his flagging popularity even before the offer was announced. It marked the culmination of deepening discord between Kurumatani and activist shareholders, who had raised concern over what they said were governance issues.

The plan to remove him appears to have accelerated after the meeting on April 6 at Toshiba’s headquarters in Tokyo. Toshiba on Wednesday said Kurumatani was stepping down after some three years as CEO.

Support for him both within the company and among investors had eroded, a person briefed on the matter said.

“A survey of managers at Toshiba showed low support for Kurumatani,” the person who was briefed said. There was “deep distrust” of him among shareholders, they added.

Toshiba said Kurumatani was stepping down to “recharge” after achieving his plan to revive the conglomerate that had been weakened by an accounting scandal.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach Kurumatani for comment about plans to have him replaced. Toshiba said it couldn’t comment on speculation. Nagayama declined to comment. A representative for CVC Japan declined to comment.

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Tanzania’s president is one of the world’s most prominent Covid-deniers – and now he may be hospitalized with Covid

TZ Magufuli in green
Tanzanian President John Magufuli at an event in August 2020.

  • Tanzanian President John Magufuli has not been seen for 17 days, prompting rumors about his health.
  • Magufuli declared Tanzania Covid-free last May and stopped releasing data. He has rejected vaccines.
  • Media reports and claims from an opposition figure have fed rumors he is gravely ill with Covid-19.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dar es Salaam – Tanzanian President John Magufuli, Africa’s most prominent Covid-19 denier, disappeared from public sight 17 days ago. Now, he is widely rumored to be seriously ill with the same virus that he has dismissed and downplayed over the past year.

Last May, Magufuli declared that “Tanzania has beaten coronavirus” after ordering three days of national prayer. The president abruptly stopped updating the number of cases, and assured foreign tourists that Tanzania’s game parks and Indian Ocean resorts were open for business, leading to a wave of travel advisories cautioning travelers to avoid the country.

Since then, he has scoffed at wearing masks, criticized regional neighbours for imposing lockdowns, and rejected coronavirus vaccines until his government independently verifies them. In early January, Magufuli told the visiting Chinese foreign affairs minister, Wang Yi, that “there is no coronavirus in Tanzania.”

Then, after appearing at an event in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam on Feb. 24, Magufuli disappeared from public view.

This week, the leading newspaper in neighboring Kenya, the Daily Nation, wrote: “The leader of an African country who has not appeared in public for nearly two weeks is admitted to Nairobi Hospital for Covid-19 treatment, even as his government remains mum on his whereabouts.”

Within hours, speculation was rife that Magufuli had been secretly flown to Nairobi for emergency medical attention and later airlifted for treatment in India. Insider has not been able to confirm these reports.

“Latest update from Nairobi,” Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu tweeted this week.

Contacted by Insider, Lissu repeated the claim but did not provide evidence.

“Over the past month, the country has lost university professors, army generals, doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals of high public standing,” Lissu told Insider. “It is highly irresponsible, and in my view criminal, for the president to continue to deny the presence of coronavirus, spurn international help and repudiate the vaccines.”

Scores of Tanzanians and neighbouring Kenyans have taken to social media to demand answers, with the hashtag #WhereIsMagufuli trending on Twitter in both countries.

On Friday, government officials addressed the rumor for the first time and insisted that Magufuli was alive and well, but offered no proof.

TZ Dar
On the streets of Dar es Salaam, some have taken to wearing masks to protect against Covid-19 but many have not.

“President Magufuli is in good health and continues to carry on with his normal duties,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said in a statement from his office. “I spoke to him (Magufuli) today and he sends his greetings to you,” Majaliwa insisted.

In a separate announcement, the commissioner of the southern Tanzanian region of Mbeya, Albert Chalamila, told journalists on Friday: “I spoke with President John Magufuli on the phone this morning … he is very strong and is continuing with his job.”


Tanzania confirmed its first coronavirus case in March 2020, but a month later Magufuli – who has a PhD in chemistry – questioned the accuracy of the test results. Cumulative cases had reached 480 people and 16 had been reported dead from the coronavirus by April 29, but Magufuli ordered the country’s Health Ministry to stop releasing updates.

On Feb. 27, three days after his last public appearance, the government announced that Magufuli had presided over the swearing in of a senior public official and attended a virtual regional summit for the East African Community (EAC) trade bloc.

It was later revealed that Magufuli did not, in fact, attend the EAC summit after all, and was instead represented by his Vice President, Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Since then, Magufuli has remained conspicuously absent from public view, missing his customary Sunday church attendance for two consecutive weeks, an oddity for the devout Catholic.

TZ Mourners Zanzibar
Mourners carrying the body of Zanzibar’s Vice President, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, in Dar es Salaam on Feb. 18, 2021.

On the streets of Dar es Salaam, Magufuli’s unexplained absence has been a source of both concern and frustration for many city residents.

“Instead of telling us the truth about Magufuli’s whereabouts, government ministers have been issuing threats against social media users. We want an explanation, not threats,” Innocent Mushi, a taxi driver, told Insider.

The death last month of Zanzibar’s first vice president, Seif Sharif Hamad, days after he announced he was hospitalized with the virus, and the death of Magufuli’s chief secretary at State House and head of the civil service, John Kijazi, from an unspecified illness exposed what many worries was the true extent of the pandemic.

“I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting COVID-19 cases and share data,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Feb. 20. “I also call on Tanzania to implement the public health measures that we know work in breaking the chains of transmission, and to prepare for vaccination.”

There have been reports of local hospitals being overrun by patients displaying Covid-19 symptoms, and shortages of critical care beds, oxygen and ventilators across major towns and cities in the country. The government denies these reports.

Unlike other East African countries, which have urged social distancing and encouraged the use of masks, it’s been business as usual in Tanzania. Public buses are crowded with passengers, with few wearing masks, while pubs and night clubs have been full of revelers. Local league matches at football stadiums and music festivals are ongoing across the country, usually packed to capacity.

TZ Hand wash
People lining up to wash their hands with chlorinated water in Dar es Salaam on March 16, 2020, hours after Tanzania announced its first case of Covid-19.

Magufuli has continued to shun modern medicine and prevention methods such as wearing masks and social distancing. Instead, he has aggressively promoted unproven traditional remedies such as steam inhalation and a ginger-garlic-onion-lemon drink as the government’s official line of treatment and prevention against the virus.

Some hospitals have incorporated these remedies in their treatment protocols for patients displaying coronavirus symptoms.


During his five years in power, Magufuli has ruled Tanzania with an iron fist, in contrast to his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete’s softer touch, and turned the once progressive East African nation of 60 million people into one of Africa’s more repressive and secretive states, critics say.

Under his leadership, the government has arrested opposition leaders and activists and limited protests. In 2017, it shut down a privately owned weekly newspaper. Only the president and three other public officials are authorized to issue data on Covid infections and speak about the pandemic.

In January, Magufuli rejected coronavirus vaccines as other countries around the world scrambled for the inoculations, saying he will not allow his compatriots to be used as guinea pigs. “Vaccines are not good. If white people were able to bring these vaccines, they would have brought vaccines for AIDS, cancer or malaria,” he said in a speech.

TZ Tundu Lissu
Tundu Lissu, Tanzania’s opposition leader, on Aug. 4, 2020

The government’s chief spokesman, Hassan Abbasi, last month backtracked from claims that Tanzania was virus free, changing the new official narrative to “we have controlled the virus.”

Roman Catholic and Lutheran church leaders have in recent weeks begun pushing back against Magufuli’s virus denialism, urging the government to take the disease seriously.

Early this month, Charles Kitima, who leads an association of Catholic bishops, told journalists in Dar es Salaam that more than 25 priests and 60 nuns had died across the country within the last two months due to various causes, including “breathing difficulties,” which has become a euphemism for coronavirus.

Lissu, the opposition leader, has made the most of the moment.

“It’s a sad comment on (Magufuli’s) stewardship of our country that it’s come to this: that he himself had to get COVID-19 and be flown out to Kenya in order to prove that prayers, steam inhalations and other unproven herbal concoctions he’s championed are no protection against coronavirus,” he said on Twitter.

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Here’s where the ‘nuclear football’ came from and why it follows US presidents wherever they go

A US military officer carrying the "nuclear football"
A US military officer carrying the “nuclear football”

  • Every American president since Eisenhower has been followed by a bag known as the “nuclear football.”
  • The briefcase was born from the Cold War belief the president needs to be able to order a launch in minutes.
  • Much of the briefcase’s contents are highly classified, but over its decades-long history, a lot has been learned.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Wherever a US president goes, a military aide carrying a heavy black briefcase follows. The case is always close by, just in case the president needs to unleash the devastating and destructive power of the US nuclear arsenal while out of the White House.

Every US president since Harry Truman, the only leader of a nuclear-armed state to authorize the use of nuclear force against an enemy, has had absolute authority over the use of nuclear weapons, and the “nuclear football” has been an important part of that presidential power for decades.

The briefcase is officially known as the president’s emergency satchel, but it is more commonly called the “nuclear football” or simply the “football.” The case starts following the president the moment they take the oath of office.

The “football” exists for two reasons, Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and an expert on the satchel, told Insider recently.

One, the briefcase “is the physical representation of the presidential authority” to order the use of nuclear weaponry, Schwartz said. Two, it exists because “we’ve been afraid that a surprise nuclear attack could catch us off guard and preclude any sort of retaliation.”

Schwartz explained that the strategic thinking behind the “football” is that “if you have the ability for the president to act quickly, you can forestall that and therein deter that from ever happening.”

‘Atomic weapons in an emergency’

A White House military aide carries the nuclear "football" as he leaves the White House
A White House military aide carries the nuclear “football” as he leaves the White House

Born from Cold War fears that the Soviet Union might launch a surprise attack that could cripple the critical US nuclear capabilities were the president unable to launch an immediate retaliatory strike, the “nuclear football” has been around since the Eisenhower administration.

The “football” was invented by Capt. Edward “Ned” Beach, Jr., a submarine officer who served as a naval aide to Dwight Eisenhower during his presidency, according to a 1991 Newsweek article.

The bag has been handed off from presidency to presidency, and every incoming president since Eisenhower peacefully transferred power to John F. Kennedy has been briefed on their nuclear responsibilities and the “nuclear football” prior to or upon taking office.

The day before Kennedy’s inauguration, Army Brig. Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, a defense liaison to the president, and Eisenhower met with the president-elect and “showed Mr. Kennedy the ‘satchel’ and the book of emergency documents therein,” a memo from Jan. 25, 1961 reads.

The memo says that the general “also told him of the extra document … included in the satchel which would authorize the use of atomic weapons in an emergency.”

The first known photograph of the briefcase, which can be seen in the first black-and-white photo in the collection of “football” photos below, was taken on May 10, 1963, when Kennedy traveled to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to meet the Canadian prime minister.

Army Maj. Gen. Chester Clifton was tasked with carrying the satchel that day, just months before the president’s life suddenly and violently ended in November 1963.

Nicknamed the ‘football’

It is unclear where exactly the nickname “football” came from, but one of the first known public appearances of this term was in a November 1965 article by Associated Press reporter Bob Horton on Kennedy’s death two years earlier and the transfer of the presidential nuclear command authority.

Horton wrote that as Kennedy was dying at a hospital in Dallas, Texas after being shot, Ira Gearhart, a US Army warrant officer, “sat outside in the lobby unobtrusively guarding a brown leather briefcase someone had nicknamed the ‘football.'”

When Kennedy died, the man “picked up the case and strode past the emergency room desk into a surgery suite where, behind drawn shades, sat Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson,” Horton wrote, explaining that “with those few steps came the first real, if not formal, transfer of power.”

As for why someone nicknamed the president’s emergency satchel the “football,” a 2005 AP report on the briefcase said that the nickname “football” came about in response to the first nuclear war plan, or Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), code-named “dropkick.”

Smithsonian Magazine reported the same in 2014, explaining that the concept was that a “football” was required to execute a “dropkick.” This explanation was attributed to former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

William Burr, an analyst with the National Security Archive at George Washington University, wrote in 2018 that this “may be the case, but no evidence supports this claim.” He argued that there is no evidence of a US war plan code-named “dropkick.”

Burr further explained that the only reference to “dropkick” that he has been able to find is in the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. There were, however, real plans code-named “dropshot” and “offtackle,” the latter being a football term.

Regardless of where the nickname came from, it stuck, and people continue to call the briefcase the “football” today. That even includes the aides that carry the case and US presidents who might need to use it.


The aide with the briefcase is the president’s constant companion, not only at home, but also overseas as well. During the later years of the Cold War, the briefcase was photographed in Red Square in Moscow. It is one among many places the case has traveled.

Russian leaders are accompanied by a briefcase similar in function to the American “nuclear football.” The case, which is an important part of the command and control of Russia’s nuclear forces, is known as the “cheget” or more generally “chemodanchik.”

The Russian briefcase was created during the tense early 1980s, when the Soviets were becoming increasingly concerned about the possibility of a US nuclear strike that would require immediate retaliation, according to a 1998 Washington Post report.

US and Russian leaders have talked about the possibility of eliminating the nuclear briefcases, though nothing has ever come of those discussions.

The issue was raised repeatedly during meetings between Bill Clinton and his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, declassified confidential memos on the meetings show.

“Let us say we get rid of the nuclear footballs,” Yeltsin remarked during a 1994 meeting. Yeltsin said that it was “too much” to have a military aide “drag around one of these briefcases.” Clinton said he would need to think about it, telling Yeltsin he hadn’t given the matter any thought.

The Russian president brought this proposal up again in 1997, asking, “What if we were to give up having to have our finger next to the button all the time?” Yeltsin told Clinton that “it is not necessary for us to carry the chemodanchik.”

“I’ll have to think about this,” Clinton replied. “All we carry, of course, are the codes and the secure phone.”

There is a little bit more to the contents of the “football” than Clinton’s short response during that meeting suggests. Reports from military aides and others throughout its history have offered some insight into what is in the bag. The specifics are classified though.

A US military aide carries the "president's emergency satchel."
A US military aide carries the “president’s emergency satchel,” also known as the “nuclear football.”

‘Things in the Football’

Warren “Bill” Gulley, the former director of the White House Military Office that oversees the “nuclear football,” wrote in his 1980 book Breaking Cover that “there are four things in the Football.”

These things include “the Black Book containing the retaliatory options, a book listing classified site locations, a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Broadcast System, and a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes.”

The briefcase is also suspected to contain communications tools because what appears to be an antenna is visible in some photos of the “football.”

The black book in the briefcase explains US nuclear war plans, previously called SIOPs but later renamed, and contains a collection of pre-approved preemptive or retaliatory strike options the president could choose from in an emergency.

A simplified summary of the nuclear war plans and strike options was added to the briefcase during the Carter administration at the request of the president, according to the AP.

The simplified summary has been described as somewhat cartoonish. A former military aide who carried the “football” said it is a little bit like “a Denny’s breakfast menu.”

Gulley, the AP reported, described the options as “Rare, Medium, or Well Done.” It is unclear if this remains unchanged.

The card with the authentication codes, which are not the same as the launch codes maintained by the US military, is known as the “biscuit,” and it is an important part of the process a president would go through to order a nuclear strike.

If the president decided to use nuclear weapons, the “football” would be opened, and the president would be presented with strike options. The commander in chief may choose to consult with senior advisors and military leaders before proceeding, but that is not a requirement.

Using the “biscuit,” the president would identify himself to a military official in the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, who would then receive and transmit strike orders once it was clear that the nuclear strike orders were coming from the commander in chief.

Within just a few minutes, nuclear weapons aboard strategic bombers or carried by land-based or submarine-launched missiles would be in the air.

While it may have once been carried inside the “football,” presidents later began carrying the “biscuit” on their person. That development has led to more than one alarming mishap.

An Air Force aide carries the 'nuclear football' out of the White House as he accompanies President Joe Biden
An Air Force aide carries the ‘nuclear football’ out of the White House as he accompanies President Joe Biden

‘Nothing going wrong’

Carter accidentally left his “biscuit” in a suit that he sent to the dry cleaner, the FBI took possession of Ronald Reagan’s card after agents seized his clothes at the hospital following an attempt on his life, and Clinton is said to have lost his card. It was missing for months before anyone knew.

Like the “biscuit,” the “football” has also been fumbled quite a few times.

During Gerald Ford’s presidency, the “football” was mistakenly left on Air Force One, and Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton all found themselves separated from the aide carrying the briefcase at one point or another.

None of these incidents “tremendously imperiled presidential command and control,” Schwartz told Insider, “but they do point out the fact that when you have one person in charge of all this, it does put a premium on everything working and nothing going wrong.”

During the Trump administration, there were at least two incidents involving the “nuclear football.”

The first happened when Donald Trump visited Beijing in November 2017 and involved a scuffle between US officials and Chinese security over the briefcase.

Chinese security officials attempted to prevent the military aide carrying the satchel from following the president into the Great Hall of the People, setting off a series of events that ultimately led to a physical altercation between the Secret Service and Chinese security personnel, Axios reported at the time. Beijing apologized for the unpleasant exchange.

‘An unstable president’

Another incident involving the “football” occurred near the end of Trump’s presidency on Jan. 6, 2020, when a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol, where a backup “nuclear football” was following Vice President Mike Pence.

The practice of giving a backup “nuclear football” to the vice president started under Eisenhower, who was concerned about his health after he suffered a heart attack. Over time, it became standard practice, Fred Kaplan, the author of The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, explained in a recent Slate article.

During the Capitol riots, the mob, some members of which were shouting “Hang Mike Pence!” after Trump criticized him for not pushing to overturn the election, came within 100 feet of Pence and the “football.”

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting the deadly riots at the Capitol, which raised questions about the dangers of giving a potentially unhinged president sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

Even as he faced impeachment for the second time in his presidency, Trump maintained control of the “nuclear football” and the authority to use nuclear weapons.

The troubling situation moved Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to call the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about options to restrict this presidential power for Trump, who she called “an unstable president.”

The scene was reminiscent of when Richard Nixon, who was depressed and drinking heavily in the face of impeachment, sparked fears among members of his own Cabinet and some members of Congress that he might order a nuclear strike and kill millions.

But, just as it did with Nixon, Trump’s presidency passed without a nuclear catastrophe. At noon on Jan. 20, 2020, the “nuclear football” began following President Joe Biden.

Though there were some questions beforehand about how the transfer would take place given Trump’s decision to not attend his successor’s inauguration, the transfer of the briefcase and presidential nuclear command and control authority occurred seamlessly that day.

Biden currently has control of the “football” and nuclear command authority, but some in Congress are pushing to change the status quo that allows him to unilaterally order nuclear attacks at a moment’s notice.

Just a few days after Biden took office, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of Defense William Perry wrote in an op-ed published by USA Today that “no president should have unilateral power to use nuclear weapons.” 

Then, a little over a month into Biden’s presidency, dozens of House Democrats led by California Reps. Ted Lieu and Jimmy Panetta sent him a letter asking him to consider changing US nuclear policy, specifically the president’s sole nuclear strike authority, and creating checks and balances in the system.

The debate over the president’s authority to order the use of nuclear weapons has come and gone many times. It is unclear what decisions, if any, Biden will make on nuclear policy, but for the time being at least, wherever the president goes, the “nuclear football” will follow.

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Trump’s erratic presidency is the latest sign giving one person control of the nukes is ‘dangerous,’ experts say

Donald Trump military
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to Air Force personnel during an event September 15, 2017 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

  • A congresswoman and former defense secretary recently argued the US needs a “no first use” policy for nukes.
  • Trump’s presidency shows the risks of giving a president total control over the nuclear arsenal, they said.
  • Nuclear experts say the US should change the status quo, but military leaders disagree.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Donald Trump is out of the White House and away from the nukes, but the volatility of his presidency has once again raised questions about whether any commander in chief should have sole and unchecked authority over the US nuclear arsenal.

In late January, just a few days after President Joe Biden took office, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of Defense William Perry wrote that “no president should have unilateral power to use nuclear weapons” in an op-ed published by USA Today.

The article pointed to the deadly Capitol riots Trump was impeached for inciting and noted that for two weeks after that incident, he maintained control of one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals.

When Trump, a twice impeached president, departed the White House on the morning of Biden’s inauguration, he was followed by a military aide carrying the “nuclear football.” Though his presidency was basically already over, Trump still had the authority to order a nuclear strike for a few more hours.

“Having the president have sole authority to order a nuclear strike is just outrageous, to have that power in one person’s hands. It does not matter who that one person is,” Jessica Sleight, a program director at Global Zero, an advocacy organization working toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons, told Insider. “It is outdated, it’s unnecessary, and it’s dangerous.”

“People really paid attention to this issue under the former administration just because of how volatile it was, but to me, Trump was really just a highlighter for how broken the process itself is,” she said.

‘Worst case scenario’

An Air Force aide carries the 'nuclear football' out of the White House as he accompanies President Joe Biden
An Air Force aide carries the ‘nuclear football’ out of the White House as he accompanies President Joe Biden.

If a president decided to use nuclear weapons, the “nuclear football” would be opened, and the president would be presented with pre-approved strike options. The commander in chief may choose to consult with senior advisors and military leaders before proceeding, but that is not a requirement.

Using the “biscuit,” a coded card that the president carries on his person, he would identify himself to a military official in the National Military Command Center, who would then receive and transmit strike orders once it was clear the orders were coming from the president.

Within just a few minutes, nuclear weapons aboard strategic bombers or carried by land-based or submarine-launched missiles would be in the air. Officials in the chain of command can theoretically object or resign in protest, but it is ultimately the Pentagon’s job to carry out any legal order from the president.

The president’s unchecked power to start a nuclear war dates back to Harry Truman, the only president to ever permit the use of nuclear force against an adversary.

While this concept was informally established during the final weeks of World War II, it was not until the Korean War that Truman’s White House officially asserted that “only the President can authorize the use of the atom bomb.”

Amid Cold War tensions with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union, the need for an immediate nuclear response, one that could be executed in minutes to prevent an enemy from crippling the US nuclear arsenal with a surprise attack, became a priority.

That fear of a surprise attack gave birth to the “nuclear football,” which was created to ensure that the president could wage a nuclear war at any time, no matter where he was.

The Cold War ended more than thirty years ago, but many of the same concerns continue to drive US nuclear authority and posturing decisions today.

“The entire premise of ‘the football’ is that the president must be able to order the launch of hundreds of nuclear weapons in a few minutes in the event of a surprise attack by Russia,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons and non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Insider.

“The entire command and control system is warped to deal with this unlikely event,” he said.

“When it comes to war planning, the people in charge always envision the worst case scenario,” Stephen Schwartz, a non-resident senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, told Insider. “That’s why our nuclear weapons are still kept on alert, and that’s why the president is still followed around by the football.”

‘Tremendous danger’

US President Donald Trump leaves the CIA headquarters after speaking to 300 people on January 21, 2017 in Langley, Virginia . Trump spoke with about 300 people in his first official visit with a government agency. In the background a military aid carries the 'football.'
Then-President Trump leaves the CIA headquarters. A military aide in the background carries the “nuclear football.”

Presidential control of the nuclear arsenal, which rests on the competencies and capabilities of one man, has not always gone off without a hitch.

During Gerald Ford’s presidency, the “nuclear football” was accidentally left aboard Air Force One. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton are also said to have gotten separated from the aide carrying the briefcase at one point or another.

Jimmy Carter sent a suit out to the dry cleaner with his “biscuit” inside, a former military aide says Clinton lost his card, and the FBI took possession of Reagan’s card after agents took his clothes at the hospital following the attempt on his life.

None of these incidents “tremendously imperiled presidential command and control,” Schwartz told Insider, “but they do point out the fact that when you have one person in charge of all this, it does put a premium on everything working and nothing going wrong.”

More concerning are the times when serious questions have been raised about the president’s mental health.

Facing impeachment, a seemingly depressed Richard Nixon who was drinking heavily sparked fears among members of his own Cabinet and some in Congress that he might order a nuclear strike and kill millions. Some similar concerns were raised about Trump after the Capitol riots.

As Schwartz explained, the president is the only person in the nuclear chain of command that does not have to pass or be a part of the US military’s personnel reliability program. Presidents are given authority over the nuclear arsenal simply because they are the president.

The greatest concern, though, is that a president might make the wrong call in a tense situation with no one in a position to stop it.

There is a fear, Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists, told Insider, that a “president that was a little unhinged would reach for that ‘nuclear sword’ sooner than he really should.”

During the Cold War, there were a number of nuclear close calls on both sides that fortunately did not escalate, such as the 1979 North American Aerospace Defense Command computer glitch that suggested a Soviet nuclear strike was underway. The US readied its systems and weapons in response, and the world came dangerously close to nuclear war.

It was determined to be a false alarm before the president was called, but the big question remains, if it had reached the president, would he have made the right decision?

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev wrote to Jimmy Carter in the aftermath, calling the incident “fraught with a tremendous danger.”

“The most urgent task is not to make the response capability better,” Kristensen said. “The most urgent task is to reduce the possibility of mistakes and wrong decisions.”

‘No need to panic and launch’

A White House military aide carries the nuclear "football" as he leaves the White House
A White House military aide carries the nuclear “football” as he leaves the White House.

Sen. Warren previously introduced legislation calling for a “no first use” nuclear posture that would have legally prohibited the president from using nuclear weapons first.

The senator’s recent op-ed took things a step further and threw support to a bill previously introduced by fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and California Rep. Ted Lieu that said that the Congress should be involved in any decision to use nuclear weapons given the legislative branch’s constitutional authority to declare war.

Warren is expected to reintroduce her bill, an aide told Insider. It is unclear if the legislation will be changed to include the suggestions of her colleagues in Congress.

An alternative to having lawmakers in the decision-making loop is incorporating the secretary of defense and attorney general into any decision.

None of these proposed ideas have ever really gone anywhere, though. “It’s somewhat Groundhog Day with this discussion because we’ve been here so many times before,” Kristensen told Insider.

“At the end of the day,” he explained, “it has been always the outcome that they die because people say you don’t want to have a situation where you box in the presidential decision-making by making it dependent on someone else.”

There is also an argument that changing the nuclear status quo could weaken US deterrence against rival nuclear powers, but nuclear weapons experts say that does not make sense.

“If you can’t hit first, why would that weaken deterrence?” Kristensen asked.

Sleight argued that “the US has the non-nuclear capabilities to credibly deter a non-nuclear attack against the US and our allies, and US second strike nuclear capability is a credible deterrent against a nuclear attack.”

Making a similar case, Kristensen told Insider that “there’s nothing an adversary, even a Russian-sized adversary, can do that would knock out our ability to retaliate,” so “there is no need to panic and launch.”

Biden has not been vocal about presidential command authority, but he has spoken about “no first use,” which he discussed as vice president.

“Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary,” he said in early 2017, expressing confidence that “we can deter-and defend ourselves and our Allies against-non-nuclear threats through other means.”

Biden has also said that the sole purpose of the US nuclear arsenal should be retaliating against a nuclear attack, meaning that nuclear weapons would not be used in response to conventional, chemical, biological, or cyber attacks.

US military leaders have repeatedly pushed back against this thinking, stressing that America’s longstanding position of strategic ambiguity about whether it would use nuclear weapons is preferred to any limitations.

“Anything that simplifies an enemy’s decision-making calculus would be a mistake, and that’s exactly what this would do,” Gen. John Hyten, then the head of US Strategic Command, told lawmakers in 2019.

Adm. Charles Richard, who currently heads STRATCOM, stated last year that his “best military advice would be to not adopt a ‘no first use’ policy.”

More recently, Richard told reporters that he would welcome an evaluation of the US nuclear weapons strategy by the new Biden administration, which is expected to conduct its own nuclear posture review.

“I recommend that based on the threat,” he said last month, explaining that the current situation “warrants another look at it to make sure that we still endorse our strategy and we have sufficient capability to execute that strategy.”

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