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US Secret Service and Chinese security physically fought over the nuclear football when Trump was in China, says report

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and President Donald Trump at the square outside the east gate of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 9, 2017. (Pang Xinglei/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
February 18, 2018

Reporter Jonathan Swan at Axios broke a big story Sunday when he revealed that when President Donald Trump was in China on Nov. 9, 2017, visiting Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, a fight broke out between U.S. Secret Service and Chinese security officials over the nuclear football.

The news traveled across the world on Sunday.

One of the Chinese security officials even grabbed White House Chief of Staff Marine Gen. John Kelly, who promptly shoved the hand off his body and then a Secret Service agent tackled the Chinese security official to the ground.

The nuclear football is an extremely important briefcase that travels with the U.S. President anywhere he goes. It’s a mobile command center that President Trump would use were he to have to order a nuclear attack. It is meant to serve as the President’s hub for this kind of action when he’s away from fixed command centers such as the White House Situation Room.

Axios is known for its constant flow of accurate, exclusive scoops and its wide network of sources.

Due to the exclusivity of the reporting by Axios, this is their report in its entirety below.

Axios’ report stated:

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 [Swan] 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 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 [Swan] 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.