For the first time in over 40 years, the US Congress has started examining the president’s authority to launch a nuclear attack.
Wherever the president goes, a black case isn’t far behind: inside are the codes for America’s nuclear arsenal – ready at a moment’s notice.
But now President Trump is facing heat even from some Republicans, wanting to examine his power to launch nuclear weapons
Republican Senator Bob Corker – a one-time Trump ally turned fierce critic – convened a hearing on Tuesday on something that has not been debated since the height of the Cold War: the process for launching a nuclear strike.
That process was first approved in 1946 when Harry Truman was president – after devastating atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.
Right now, if the president decides to launch a strike, he could consult briefly with military and civilian advisers, who might try to change his mind. But ultimately the airmen in Minuteman missile silos in North Dakota would have to follow the president’s orders – launching within minutes.
The latest estimates predict a missile launched by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un could reach the United States within 30 to 40 minutes.
That stark reality has not toned down Trump’s rhetoric. The president threatened in August to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea if it threatened the US.
The president’s war of words with Kim Jong-un has alarmed some former national security officials about a pre-emptive first strike.
“I worry about frankly, you know, access to the nuclear codes. That he, in a fit of pique, decides to do something about Kim Jong Un – there is actually very little to stop him,” Former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on CNN.
As for those who believe Trump’s generals – Mattis, Kelly or McMaster – could overrule the president – the law says they could not.
With Andrea Mitchell, NBC News