Trump and Biden admins clash over reports of previous Chinese balloons
Former President Trump and a number of the top defense and intelligence officials from his administration are refuting a claim that Chinese espionage balloons flew over the U.S. multiple times during his tenure.
The denials on Sunday puts the former officials at odds with defense officials from the Biden administration, who told reporters the U.S. was aware of at least three other instances during the Trump administration of a Chinese surveillance balloon having “transited” the U.S.
Trump denied that assertion on social media Sunday.
“Now they are putting out that a Balloon was put up by China during the Trump Administration, in order to take the ‘heat’ off the slow moving Biden fools,” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social site. “China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to have happened, and it NEVER did. JUST FAKE DISINFORMATION!”
A number of former senior defense and intelligence officials also refuted the claim to Fox News on Sunday. Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton told the outlet that he was unaware of any such occurrence during the Trump administration.
“I don’t know of any balloon flights by any power over the United States during my tenure, and I’d never heard of any of that occurring before I joined in 2018,” Bolton said to Fox News. “I haven’t heard of anything that occurred after I left either.”
Robert O’Brien, another former Trump national security adviser, told Fox News, “Unequivocally, I have never been briefed on the issue.”
And Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Maria Bartiromo on FOX News Channels’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that the claim was “not true.”
“I can refute it,” Ratcliffe said, adding that people would have been able to see the balloons and that the “media that hated Donald Trump” would have reported on it.
The senior defense official who briefed reporters this weekend admitted that the balloons during the Trump administration did not fly over the U.S. for as long as the one that was shot down this week.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), a top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CNN on Sunday that the U.S. has seen these balloons in the past.
“The existence of the balloons is not a mystery to people in that field,” he said. “What we have never seen, what is unprecedented, and whoever the source was at the Department of Defense would have to acknowledge this, what is unprecedented is a balloon flight that entered over Idaho and flew over Montana, over all these sensitive military installations, air force bases, ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] fields, right across the middle of the country. That has never happened before. That is unprecedented,” he said.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.