Trump Alone Has the Nuclear Codes—But Congress Can Change That

By Corey Greer and Samantha Blake

This piece was originally published in Ms.


Pictured: Trump on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at El Paso International Airport. (White House Photo / Andrea Hanks)


After the last few days, we are left wondering: Is there a line that Trump won’t cross? He has pardoned war criminals, threatened elected officials, is thinking about pardoning himself, and delivered what people are calling a concession speech only after the Capitol Hill insurrection that he openly encouraged. In the absence of any airtight legal constraints, right now all we have is hope (#thoughtsandprayers) that he won’t launch a potentially apocalyptic nuclear war.


We have been worried about the sanity of presidents before, and it will happen again. As Laicie Heeley details in “Nixon’s Drunken Run-ins With the Bomb,” President Nixon was only a couple drinks away from nuking the planet off its axis in his final year as president. He reportedly said, “I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.”


Sources close to Trump told CNN’s Jim Acosta that he is “unstable, ranting and raving” and “bent on destruction in his final days.” That is not something you want to hear about someone who has the nuclear codes for almost two more weeks.


Now, we know what you are thinking (and tweeting and tweeting): Someone would stop him.

“There are many barriers/checkpoints before he’d get to push a button,” says one Twitter user. “Surely they must have an override in place that would negate (short circuit) the code process if a sitting President displays signs of insanity?”