Former President Donald Trump on Sunday flat-out denied that Chinese balloons ever entered U.S. airspace during his administration, despite the Pentagon saying it happened “at least three times.”
“China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to have happened, and it NEVER did. JUST FAKE DISINFORMATION!” the former president posted on Truth Social.
Trump also described the Biden administration’s handling of the suspected spy balloon ― which the military shot down Saturday after it crossed the continental U.S. ― as “a disgrace.”
“They are only good at cheating in elections, and disinformation,” Trump wrote, in apparent reference to his ongoing unsubstantiated claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
Despite Trump’s denial, a senior defense official speaking on background said in a statement released by the Pentagon on Saturday that Chinese balloons did travel over the continental U.S. while Trump was president, albeit briefly.
Several other current and former Republican officials have also either denied that this ever happened or tried to shift blame onto Democrats for any past balloon incidents.
“It’s possible, maybe, that it happened first during the Obama administration and the military was told at the time that this is no big deal and they shouldn’t raise the alarm bells on it,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News Sunday.
“It’s not true,” former National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe told Fox News.
“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?” Ratcliffe asked. “I don’t remember that either, because it didn’t happen.”
The U.S. said it shot down the balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday after waiting until it was over water so falling debris would not pose a threat to people on the ground. President Joe Biden was first alerted to the balloon’s presence on Tuesday, after it crossed into U.S. territory from Canadian airspace, U.S. defense and military officials said.
China, which had said that the aircraft was merely a civilian weather balloon, called the balloon’s destruction “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it reserves the right “to take further actions in response.”