The U.S. “nuclear football” reportedly became the object of a scrum, complete with tackling during President Trump’s visit to China last year.
According to a report Sunday evening at Axios that cited “five sources familiar with the events,” the physical scuffle directly involved one of the U.S. government’s highest officials — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The altercation happened, Axios reported, when Chinese security officials tried to stop the Secret Service agent carrying the briefcase that holds the U.S. nuclear codes from entering the Great Hall of the People with Mr. Trump.
“A U.S. official hurried into the adjoining room and told Kelly what was happening. Kelly rushed over and told the U.S. officials to keep walking — ‘We’re moving in,’ he said — and the Americans all started moving,” Axios reported.
According to Axios, Mr. Kelly then was grabbed by a Chinese security official, which prompted the former Marine to shove the Chinese man back and “a U.S. Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground.”
At no time, according to Axios, did the Chinese control the “nuclear football,” and U.S. officials were asked to keep quiet about the Nov. 9 incident, which may have been a misunderstanding.
“The head of the Chinese security detail apologized to the Americans afterwards for the misunderstanding,” Axios reporter Jonathan Swan wrote, although he dangled out another possibility.
While U.S. officials, per custom for foreign trips, briefed their Chinese hosts on security protocols for the nuclear codes, “somebody at the Chinese end either didn’t get the memo or decided to mess with the Americans anyway.”
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