GOP avoids questions about Chinese balloons under Trump

Republicans criticize the Biden administration’s handling of an alleged surveillance balloon from China that entered US airspace last week – while avoiding questions about similar incidents that have occurred repeatedly under the former President Donald Trump.

The balloon, which looked like a large white orb to the bewildered civilians on the ground, moved east across US airspace for several days before the Air Force F-22 fighter jet shoot it down with a short-range missile off the coast of South Carolina. SATURDAY. The interception was televised live, showing the ball exploding before falling into the Atlantic.

China claims the balloon was a civilian airship used primarily for weather research, but the United States claims it was a “spy balloon” that carried sensors and surveillance equipment while passing overhead. over sensitive military areas.

Citing an unidentified senior Pentagon official, the Defense Department said in a statement on Saturday that Chinese balloons “briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the previous administration.” The Associated Press reported that officials also spoke about another such incident earlier in the Biden administration. None of these four incidents would have lasted as long as the one this week, and it has not been confirmed whether the previous balloons were shot down.

President Joe Biden speaks to the press after arriving at Hagerstown Regional Airport in Hagerstown, Maryland, February 4, 2023.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

According to the White House, President Joe Biden was first briefed on the balloon last Tuesday, and a day later authorized the military to shoot it down as soon as it was in a location where civilians would not be damaged by the debris. . But Republicans spent the weekend criticizing the administration for not moving fast enough to bring the ball down.

When confronted with the various instances of Chinese balloons entering US airspace under the Trump administration, these same Republicans avoided giving a straight answer.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, refused to answer Chuck Todd when asked if he had been briefed on the many incidents that occurred during the Trump administration. Instead, Turner backtracked on his assertion that Biden “doesn’t see the urgency” of the current situation.

When asked about it on Fox News on SundaySen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tried to blame ballooning reports during the Trump years on former President Barack Obama.

“So I’ve spoken to many former Trump administration officials, they say they’re not aware of anything like that that happened during their administration,” Cotton told Shannon Bream. . “It’s possible, perhaps, that this first happened during the Obama administration and the military was told at the time that it was no big deal and that they shouldn’t sound the alarm on this. We also need to get answers to that.

Mike Pompeo, who served as both CIA director and secretary of state under Trump, told Fox News on Saturday that he was unaware of such incidents happening “during our four years in office”.

On Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, acknowledged previous incidents of Chinese balloons entering the United States, but said they were “not comparable.” due to the long flight path taken by the newer balloon, including over “sensitive military installations”.

Rubio also claimed that China was trying to signal to the world that the United States could not come to the aid of Indo-Pacific nations threatened by China if it could not shoot down a balloon in its own airspace. When recalled by Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week” that the Biden administration actually downed the ball, Rubio replied, “Yeah.”

Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) And Jim Jordan (Ohio) also claimed that Trump would not have allowed a spy balloon into the country, failing to mention the incidents cited by the Pentagon.

Trump himself has dismissed the idea that surveillance balloons from China entered the United States under his watch, posting his denial Sunday on his far-right Truth Social platform.

“[The Biden administration] are only good at cheating in elections and spreading misinformation ― and now they say a balloon was planted by China under the Trump administration, in order to calm Biden’s slow fools,” the former president wrote. . . “China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for that to happen, and it NEVER happened. JUST FALSE DISINFORMATION!


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