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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

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and Sen. Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol in 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.