V.P. Pence, Not Trump, Atop Nuclear Arms Command -- Intel Source

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V.P. Pence--with correct golden codes? Photo: Whitehouse.gov

U.S. intelligence officials were so alarmed after Trump's victory that an elaborate plan was devised before his inauguration to ensure that should the need ever arise, Vice President Mike Pence gets to authorize any nuclear attack, according to a member of the intelligence community.

Intelligence officials were concerned about Trump's state of mind and had no confidence in his top advisors Gen. Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon, this source says. Flynn later became national security advisor but was forced out within a month of Trump's inauguration over his previous contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Under what's called the National Command Authority (NCA) the president and Secretary of Defense must together verify to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff any order for a nuclear launch, making it a two-person command. The defense secretary can't exercise a veto and if the president can't get the approval, as commander-in-chief, he can fire the defense secretary.

Under normal circumstances only the president of the United States can initiate any type of nuclear weapons attack. However, Article 4 of the 25th Amendment allows the vice president with a "majority" of the cabinet or Congress to declare the president "disabled."

Beginning on the day after the election, on November 9, a contingency plan to sidestep Trump that had long been in discussion by the intelligence officials, the National Security Agency (NSA), and top U.S. generals was communicated to Vice President Pence. He had been in close contact with some in the group devising this contingency from the time he was selected as Trump"s running mate, according to this intelligence community source.

The codes for a nuclear launch are on a card carried by the president with new passwords generated everyday. There are multiple codes, some of which are decoys, so the president must memorize the correct ones.

Known as the "gold codes" the Vice President also has a similar card with the set of codes. The NSA generates the codes for The White House, U.S. Strategic Command, the Pentagon, and TACAMO which is the nation's airborne communications command.

The President of the United States has a very brief window -- it's been estimated as less than 10 minutes-- to make a decision about a nuclear launch.

Zbigniew Brzezinski who was President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor once discussed getting a 3 a.m. call about a nuclear attack against the United States which turned out to have been a false alarm.

The White House did not return a call Saturday seeking comment for this report.

In addition to monitoring conversations in Trump Tower, the intelligence community put in place the capacity to monitor other locations frequented by Trump and his top associates, this source says.

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