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Did Donald Trump Allow a Chinese Spy Balloon to Fly Over America?

Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the "Rally to Protect Our Elections" hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the "Rally to Protect Our Elections" hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.

Did Donald Trump allow a Chinese spy balloon to come across U.S. territory as the Biden Administration did?

So who is telling the truth? 

There are several reports today that state President Joe Biden is not alone in trying to handle the damage done by Chinese spy balloons traveling over the United States

In fact, many outlets are reporting the outcome of a background call given by the U.S. Defense Department stating that

“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. We spoke directly with Chinese officials through multiple channels, but rather than address their intrusion into our airspace, the PRC put out an explanation that lacked any credibility.” 

Several Trump Administration officials have discredited the report. And quite forcefully, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe stated it was not true to Fox Business in a Sunday morning interview with Maria Bartiromo (note the transcript below is rushed, it seems, so please watch the video below for a little more clarity): 

“Well, it’s not true. I can. I can refute it.

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper refuted it yesterday.

Former Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo has refuted it.

But Maria, 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 it with the naked eye, and that a media that hated Donald Trump wasn’t reporting. I don’t remember that either, because it didn’t happen, as I said to you earlier. This was unprecedented. We have never had a circumstance where an adversary has had spy craft over our country, our continental United States, posing a threat for the better part of a week straight.

And that’s why I said to you before, the not only is an unprecedented, but the damage from this is incalculable, both from an intelligence standpoint and the possible payloads. You talked a little bit earlier about the different types of payloads that a stratospheric balloon could carry.

Those possibilities are limited only by your imagination. But what we do know is none of those are possible to be deployed against the United States if a stratospheric balloon isn’t allowed to traipse across our countryside for four straight days, something that has never happened before. But beyond that, intelligence damage, Maria, the other thing is that the damage that it wasn’t just 320 million Americans that were watching this balloon, you know, paralyzed for a week. It was Russia. It was Iran. It was North Korea.

It was American adversaries who also were surprised that this type of thing could happen and are frankly thrilled at the possibilities of what they could do to deploy the same type of stratospheric balloon or device over the continental mainland and have this kind of slow, weak, timid, late, frankly, terrible response by the Biden administration.” 

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Who is telling the truth? I would suspect we will know soon enough. 

Written By

Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive and serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. He served on the Russia task force for U.S. Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz, and in a similar task force in the John Hay Initiative. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization. Kazianis also has a background in defense journalism, having served as Editor-In-Chief at The Diplomat and Executive Editor for the National Interest.