During the second day of the Senate trial of former US President Donald Trump, House impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett presented a video of a military aide following Mike Pence and holding the so-called "nuclear football" as the former VP was being rushed to safety during the 6 January Capitol riots.
The "nuclear football" is simply a black leather briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes for POTUS.
US House Democrats prosecuting the impeachment case against Donald Trump played footage from security cameras showing the mob searching the Capitol building for former Vice President Mike Pence and the staff pic.twitter.com/2rqXpWcZyP— TRT World (@trtworld) February 11, 2021
It is also known as the US president's "emergency satchel", which is always carried by a military aide, who is required to remain close to the commander-in-chief at all times. A duplicate is always carried by the vice president in case something happens to POTUS.
"As the rioters reached the top of the stairs, they were within 100 feet [30 metres] of where the vice president was sheltering with his family, and they were just feet away from one of the doors to this chamber", Plaskett said as she aired the video in the Senate earlier this week.
She spoke as the lawmakers were briefed that during the 6 January riots, Trump supporters approached dangerously close to the "emergency satchel".
Stephen Schwartz, a non-resident senior fellow with the non-profit organisation Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, noted on his Twitter page that "the fifth person through the door behind Vice President Pence in this video is his military aide carrying his duplicate nuclear 'Football', which — just like the briefcase that follows the president 24/7 — follows the vice president everywhere s/he goes".
Most experts said that even though the rioters could not have launched a nuclear attack because of security controls, they posed a threat of revealing classified information to the world if they managed to obtain "the nuclear football".
In mid-January, The Washington Post reported that the rioters came very close to Pence and that he was not evacuated from the Senate chamber for approximately 14 minutes after Capitol Police first reported that the Capitol building had been breached by Trump supporters.
According to The Washington Post, Secret Service officers eventually shuffled Pence, his wife, and his daughter to a room off the Senate floor after rioters breached the Capitol. Pence and his family had taken refuge in a hideaway moments before the attackers rushed up the stairs to a second-floor landing near the Senate.
The Secret Service has declined to comment on Pence's evacuation during the Capitol siege, simply stating that he was "secure" during the breach.
Many of those rioters called the vice president a traitor as they poured into the building, with some shouting: "Hang Mike Pence!", according to video footage captured during the breach.
The impeachment proceedings against Trump, who is accused by Democrats of inciting violence, are currently underway in the Senate, which earlier voted in favour of the constitutionality of the process.