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Scoop: Skirmish in Beijing over the nuclear football

The president and first lady during their visit to China. Photo: Thomas Peter/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday Nov. 9, when President Trump and his team visited Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Chief of Staff John Kelly and a U.S. Secret Service agent skirmished with Chinese security officials over the nuclear football.

I've spoken to five sources familiar with the events. Here's what happened, as they describe it:

  • When the U.S. military aide carrying the nuclear football entered the Great Hall, Chinese security officials blocked his entry. (The official who carries the nuclear football is supposed to stay close to the president at all times, along with a doctor.)
  • 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.
  • Then there was a commotion. A Chinese security official grabbed Kelly, and Kelly shoved the man’s hand off of his body. Then a U.S. Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground.

The whole scuffle was over in a flash, and the U.S. officials told about the incident were asked to keep quiet about it. Trump's team followed the normal security procedure to brief the Chinese before their visit to Beijing, according to a person familiar with the trip — but somebody at the Chinese end either didn't get the memo or decided to mess with the Americans anyway.

I'm told that at no point did the Chinese have the nuclear football in their possession or even touch the briefcase. I'm also told the head of the Chinese security detail apologized to the Americans afterwards for the misunderstanding.

Updated with Secret Service statement:

“An individual, not part of the official delegation, attempted to prevent one of our protectees from entering a room. A U.S. Secret Service  agent quickly intervened and a short scuffle ensued. The individual complied with the agent’s directions and no further action was necessary. At no time did anyone involved fall to the ground. The event continued without incident.”

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D.C.'s March for our Lives: "The voters are coming"

Protestor at D.C.'s March for our Lives.
Protestor at D.C.'s March for our Lives. Photo: Axios' Stef Kight.

D.C.'s March for our Lives event is expected to see more than half a million participants.

Why it matters: While D.C. is the primary march, there are hundreds of others around the world and across the country. Led by students, the march is "to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address" gun issues, per the organization's mission statement.

Haley Britzky 3 hours ago
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DOJ eyeing tool to allow access to encrypted data on smartphones

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Justice Department is in "a preliminary stage" of discussions about requiring tech companies building "tools into smartphones and other devices" that would allow law enforcement investigators to access encrypted data, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: This has been on the FBI's mind since 2010, and last month the White House "circulated a memo...outlining ways to think about solving the problem," officials told the Times. Both FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, support finding ways for law enforcement to access data without compromising devices security.