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Tao WU via Flickr CC

Despite Trump's tweets this week indicating he has a so-called "Nuclear Button" that's "much bigger & more powerful" than Kim Jong-un's are nothing more than flourish. There's not a real "nuclear button" Trump can press — that's just a metaphor for the framework that's used to ultimately launch a nuclear weapon.

The bottom line: There's a "nuclear briefcase," a "black book" and a "biscuit."

What you need to know about that framework and the "national command authority," which can authorize a nuclear weapons launch.

  • The "nuclear briefcase": Trump always has an aide nearby who has been trained on procedures for carrying out nuclear attacks and who carries a briefcase or two, known as the proverbial "nuclear briefcase."
  • The "black book" menu of attacks: Inside the nuclear briefcase is a list of attack target countries and target types the President can carry out, all listed out on a menu that looks a lot like a cartoon. There are three kinds of attack targets: nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, military-industrial facilities, or leaders and hideouts.
  • The President's ID "biscuit": He doesn't actually carry around launch codes in the nuclear briefcase, but he does carry around an identification card colloquially known as "the biscuit." He uses this code to authenticate his identity as the President to the military commanders in the Pentagon war room before he communicates which attacks he wants to launch.

And that request is then translated into an "emergency action message" in the war room, which, in a matter of minutes, would unleash the President's nuclear weapons request.

Editor's note: This piece was originally published April, 2017.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."