The "nuclear football" is a briefcase, not an actual football—but sources tell Axios that Chinese security officials acted like its carrier was trying to score a touchdown in an incident in Beijing during President Trump's visit. The sources say that in the Nov. 9 incident, Chinese officials blocked the military aide carrying the briefcase containing nuclear launch codes from entering the Great Hall of the People with Trump, causing a scuffle that led to a Secret Service agent tackling a Chinese security official to the ground. They say that after the aide was blocked, an American told White House chief of staff John Kelly what was happening, and Kelly told the American officials to keep walking.
The sources say the Chinese official was tackled after he grabbed Kelly and Kelly shoved his hand off his body. The nuclear football—which is supposed to be close to the president at all times—wasn't seized, damaged, or even touched during the brief scuffle, the sources say. The briefcase contains equipment that the president would use to confirm his identity to the Pentagon if he needed to order a nuclear strike, the South China Morning Post notes. According to Axios, which cites five sources, the Trump team followed normal security procedures and made sure officials in Beijing were briefed before Trump visited. The sources say the Chinese head of security involved later apologized. (Read more nuclear football stories.)