According to a new Axios report, John Kelly was involved in a very delicate moment back in November. Apparently, the White House chief of staff and a Secret Service agent scuffled with Chinese security officials over the American nuclear “football” during a trip to China. Fortunately, Chinese officials were never in possession of the bag containing the launch codes, and the chief of the Chinese security eventually apologized to the members of the Trump team.
As everyone knows, the nuclear football is the black briefcase that contains the nuclear launch codes for the U.S. President. Logically, the aide carrying it is required to remain with him at all times.
The Axios report detailed that the interaction took place during President Donald Trump’s trip to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Five sources told this media outlet that the aide carrying the briefcase was blocked from entering the hall, and another official immediately told Kelly.
Once this happened, the White House chief of staff came over and told the officials to continue walking in. Soon after this moment, a Chinese security official reportedly grabbed at Kelly, and the chief of staff decided to push him off.
As reported by Axios, soon after this happened, a Secret Service agent tackled the Chinese security official. Naturally, it was a very delicate situation that the Trump administration successfully kept on secret until now.
The article indicates that the Trump team properly informed the Chinese about security procedures before the trip.
According to the publication, U.S. officials were asked to not discuss the interaction at any moment, considering that it would create an unnecessary controversy.
In addition, the report points out that this interaction took place during President Donald Trump’s trip to China in November as part of the Asian tour.
Jonathan Swan, the man who wrote the Axios article, had some interesting words regarding this whole situation. “I can’t believe this story hasn’t gotten out, and neither can the very very few people who know about it,” he said
Lamentably, some media outlets are literally blaming Kelly for the altercation, which seems quite irresponsible considering that he hasn’t provided his side of the events and there are several details that remain unclear.
While this was a really uncomfortable moment, the truth is that this is not the first time a U.S. presidential trip to China ends up in this type of protocol failure.
Back in September 2016, when former President Barack Obama flew into east China for the G20, he was deprived of a rolling staircase and forced to leave the Air Force One through a little-used exit in the belly of the plane.
Naturally, there were heated scenes on the tarmac below as Chinese and U.S. officials quarreled and one local official was caught on camera yelling: “this is our country!”
Soon after that event, the New York Times described Obama’s reception as something quite bruising, even by the Chinese standards.
Unsurprisingly, Chinese officials responded angrily to the suggestion that the whole incident was nothing more than a calculated diplomatic snub.
Bishop explained that Chinese security officials are quite empowered and they are extremely paranoid most of the times. In addition, he explained that these officials “like to push people around.”
In addition to Bishop, Mexico’s former ambassador in Beijing Jorge Guajardo also said that the Axios report was quite believable. He explained that the Chinese security officials usually have that kind of behavior.
As everyone knows, the process for launching a nuclear strike is not only secret but also extremely complex. The nuclear football is carried by a rotating group of military officers everywhere the U.S. president goes. As a matter of fact, the bag is equipped with a book with prepared war plans and communication tools.
If the U.S. president were to order a nuclear strike, he would identify himself to military officials at the Pentagon with codes unique to him.
Apparently, those codes are recorded on the so-called “biscuit,” which is a card that is carried by the U.S. president at all times. He then would transmit the launch order to the Strategic Command and the Pentagon.
The Trump administration’s handling of the launch codes came under severe scrutiny last year after a visitor to the President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida posted a picture on Facebook with the person he said was the responsible for carrying the football.
As you can imagine, this was a very controversial move considering the national security implications and the collateral damages it could have created.