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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

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse to introduce bill offering signing bonuses to new hires

Sen. Ben Sasse. Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) plans to introduce legislation this week to grant signing bonuses to new hires, he announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The bonuses would replace expanded unemployment benefits and are aimed at boosting employment. Sasse called the numbers in the latest jobs report "crummy."

Prosecutor to seek hate crime charges, death penalty in Atlanta shootings

In Hopkinton, Mass., the Rally & Run To Stop Asian Hate is held to show solidarity in the wake of deadly Atlanta shootings and to mourn the loss of eight lives including six Asian women. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Prosecutors unveiled murder charges against the white man accused of shooting and killing eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas,.AP reports.

Driving the news: A prosecutor filed notice that she plans to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty in the case.

3 hours ago - Health

Study: Over 99% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were not vaccinated

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday released a study showing that 99.75% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and April 13 were not fully vaccinated, according to data provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Real-world evidence continues to show coronavirus vaccines are effective at keeping people from dying and out of hospitals. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been found to be 95% and 94% effective, respectively, at preventing symptomatic infections.