13:39 GMT08 March 2021
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    Donald Trump has already left the White House and is on his way to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida during the countdown to the beginning of Joe Biden’s inauguration.

    For the first time in modern US history, Donald Trump will not hand over the so-called nuclear “football” to Joe Biden because the outgoing US president will be in Florida when the president-elect is sworn in.

    This means that the handover will take place differently, American news network NBC News reports.

    The nuclear "football", in fact, looks like an oddly shaped 45-pound (20 kilogrammes) leather briefcase that is typically carried by a military aide.  

    It contains the mechanism for a US president to authorise the nuclear codes - rather than a big red button to launch a strike, as many think.

    A military aide carries the nuclear launch codes into the White House, after U.S. President Donald Trump arrived from travel to West Point, New York, on the South Lawn in Washington, U.S., December 12, 2020
    © REUTERS / CHERISS MAY
    A military aide carries the nuclear launch codes into the White House, after U.S. President Donald Trump arrived from travel to West Point, New York, on the South Lawn in Washington, U.S., December 12, 2020

    NBC News cited an unnamed source who said that the fact Trump was physically out of Washington did not affect his launch authority or access to the nuclear “football” until noon, when Biden’s inauguration is due to start.

    The source added that a military aide will accompany Trump to Florida with one of the briefcases and that the outgoing president will retain sole authority to launch a nuclear strike until 11:59:59am on Wednesday.

    “Another military aide with a second nuclear 'football' will hand over the authority to Biden once he is sworn in, and the military aide with Trump will bring ‘the football’ back to Washington”, according to NBC News.  

    With “the football” for the president-elect due to be on hand for him at noon on Wednesday, Retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, in turn, explained that just before Biden becomes president, “there's a football in his vicinity [that] is activated”.

    The White House declined to comment on the matter, citing security concerns.

    Earlier this month, Trump confirmed via Twitter that he would not attend Joe Biden's inauguration on 20 January, a decision that was then described by the president-elect as “a good thing”.

    Earlier, Trump released a short address to the nation in which he formally acknowledged that a "new administration would be inaugurated" this Wednesday, also promising to commit himself to "a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power".

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    Tags:
    nuclear strike, inauguration, Joe Biden, Donald Trump
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