Former President Donald Trump responded to claims that Chinese regime spy balloons entered U.S. airspace during his administration, saying such alleged events “never happened.”
An anonymous U.S. Defense Department official said over the weekend that spy balloons transited over U.S. territory under the Trump administration. But Trump, in a Fox News interview on Sunday, pushed back.
“This never happened. It would have never happened,” Trump told the outlet, adding that the Chinese regime “respected us greatly” under his leadership. “It never happened with us under the Trump administration and if it did, we would have shot it down immediately,” added Trump. “It’s disinformation.”
Before the balloon was shot down, Trump on his social media platform Truth Social had called for the U.S. military to shoot down the balloon last week after it was spotted near Billings, Montana.
“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 Biden administration, Trump wrote Sunday. “China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to have happened, and it NEVER did.”
Other Officials Respond
Mark Esper, who served under Trump as secretary of defense, refuted claims about balloons flying over the United States under the previous administration.
“I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” he told CNN. “I would remember that for sure.”
John Bolton, a former U.S. national security adviser under Trump, said that he never heard of any spy balloons entering U.S. airspace or hovering over U.S. territory while Trump was in office. Bolton, also a Bush administration official when he was in office, also said that he never heard of anything like this happening before he joined the Trump administration in 2018.
“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 News on Sunday. “I haven’t heard of anything that occurred after I left either.”
Responding to claims made over the weekend, Bolton said that the current administration needs to “tell Congress” about any “specific examples.” He added that “I can say with 100 percent certainty not during my tenure.”
“Unequivocally, I have never been briefed on the issue,” added Robert O’Brien, who served as White House national security adviser under Trump. “It never came up,” he said. “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 told Fox.
“It’s not true. I can refute it,” former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe also said. “The American people can refute it for themselves. 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?”
What Was Claimed
A top Defense official, who was not identified, said Saturday that the Chinese regime’s “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,” according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.
“We spoke directly with Chinese officials through multiple channels, but rather than address their intrusion into our airspace, the [Chinese regime] put out an explanation that lacked any credibility,” the official said.
On Saturday, officials said President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier on Wednesday. He was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.
The giant white orb was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast. At about 2:39 p.m. EST, an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, senior defense officials said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times