Government officials who served in the Trump administration are forcefully pushing back on claims that Chinese spy balloons traversed the United States on former President Donald Trump's watch.
What was claimed?
On Saturday, the Pentagon
that devices similar to the one shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday "transited" over the continental U.S. three times under Trump.
"PRC government surveillance balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration, but never for this duration of time," a Pentagon spokesperson claimed.
The statement was immediately used against Republicans who had been criticizing Biden for his muted response to the Chinese spy balloon.
But what are officials saying?
A top Biden administration official
told Fox News that
Chinese spy devices indeed flew over the continental U.S. under Trump — but their flights were "discovered after" Biden became president.
"This information was discovered after the [Trump] administration left," the official said. "They went undetected."
The explanation clarifies why senior Trump administration officials denied that any such incidents occurred when Trump was president.
, national security adviser
: "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. I haven't heard of anything that occurred after I left, either. I can say with 100% certainty, not during my tenure."
, defense secretary
: "I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States."
, director of national intelligence
: "It's not true. I can refute it. ... Do you remember during the Trump administration when photographers on the ground and commercial airline pilots were talking about a spy balloon over the United States that people could look up and see even with the naked eye, and that a media that hated Donald Trump wasn't reporting?"
Indeed, one would think that, considering the unprecedented government leaks that characterized the Trump presidency, if China had successfully flown a spy balloon over the U.S. under Trump's watch that someone in the military or national security apparatus would have leaked that information to the media.
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