How Close Did the Capitol Rioters Get to the Nuclear “Football”?

Video of the Capitol insurrection introduced by the Democratic impeachment managers revealed that as then-Vice President Mike Pence fled the Capitol mob on Jan. 6, the “nuclear football” was accompanying him, CNN reported Thursday night.

The backup “football” of equipment and nuclear codes needed to launch a strike is identical to the one carried by officials near the president. It always follows the second in command in case the president becomes incapacitated.

A Defense official told CNN that U.S. Strategic Command became aware of the threat to the football after a startling video played at the Senate impeachment trial Wednesday showing Pence, his Secret Service agents and a military officer carrying the briefcase with classified nuclear launch information fleeing the Senate.

Secret Service evacuated Pence his wife, daughter and brother, Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), out of a room connected to the Senate chamber at 2:26 p.m., 37 minutes after the initial breach of protesters, according to new security footage shown by the prosecutors.

The timeline unveiled by House Democrats revealed how close a call it was for Pence and, by extension, the briefcase containing U.S. nuclear codes.

According to CNN, it is unclear if officials at the National Security Council or the Pentagon were aware of the threat against Pence and members of his team prior to the impeachment video.

“The risk associated with the insurrectionists getting their hands on Pence’s football wasn’t that they could have initiated an unauthorized launch. But had they stolen the football and acquired its contents, which include pre-planned nuclear strike options, they could have shared the contents with the world,” Kingston Reif, an expert on nuclear weapons policy at the nonpartisan Arms Control Association, told CNN.

“Such an outcome would have been a security breach of almost incomprehensible proportions,” Reif continued. “And it ought to raise further questions about the rationale for the anachronism that is the football.”

Vipin Narang, an associate professor at MIT who researches nuclear proliferation, wrote on Twitter that the “football” is a communication device. However, he wrote it was…

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