Pentagon officials say three Chinese spy balloons flew into US territory under former President Trump’s watch — a claim he denied Sunday — and that another crashed off Hawaii four months ago.
Fox News said Sunday that it had confirmed at least one spy balloon did fly over parts of Texas and Florida while Trump was in office.
The US military was forced to shoot down another Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.
As critics of Biden bash him for waiting several days to take out the most recent spy balloon as it drifted across the country, Trump denied to Fox News Digital on Sunday that any such apparatuses ever made it over the US under his watch.
“This never happened. It would have never happened,” Trump said, claiming Beijing “respected us greatly” during his term.
“And if it did, we would have shot it down immediately,” he added, while blaming “incompetent” Biden officials for spreading “disinformation” about any balloons in US air space under the Republican former president’s time in office.
The claims by Trump, who is running for president again, were echoed by his former national security adviser, John Bolton.
“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 told Fox. “I haven’t heard of anything that occurred after I left, either.”
Bolton called on the Biden administration to “tell Congress” if they have “specific examples.”
Robert O’Brien, who succeeded Bolton in the role in 2019, also told the outlet he had no knowledge of a similar incident during his tenure.
“Unequivocally, I have never been briefed on the issue,” O’Brien said.
Other top officials in the Trump administration also seemed to think the claims are full of hot air.
“If a balloon had come up, we would have known. Someone in the intelligence community would have known, and it would have bubbled up to me to brief the president,” former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell said.
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe added to Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” “It’s not true — I can refute it.
“The American people can refute it for themselves,” he said. “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?”
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck added, “I can’t rule out that things occurred that I was unaware of, but I do think something like this, I would have been aware of.”
Ex-Defense Secretary Mark Esper also said the claim is inflated.
“I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” Esper told CNN. “I would remember that for sure.”
The Pentagon did not respond to the outlet for comment, and it was possible that military officials chose not to brief civilian officials on the purported balloon sightings under Trump, the article noted.
The Pentagon on Saturday said officials waited until the latest balloon was over water to shoot it down with a military jet.
The balloon had first entered American airspace between Russia and Alaska on Jan. 28 and breached the continental US on Tuesday.
China claimed the balloon was for meteorological research and had accidentally flown into US airspace, down through Canada, into Idaho, and across the entire country.
Chinese officials said Saturday that shooting the balloon down was an “excessive reaction” and that the country “retains the right to respond further.”
Federal officials were scouring a 7-mile swatch of the Atlantic for the remains of the orb, which was soaring at a height of 66,000 feet when it was shot down by fighter jets.
With Post wires
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