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."
"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.
Other Officials RespondMark Esper, who served under Trump as secretary of defense, refuted claims about balloons flying over the United States under the previous administration.
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.
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.
What Was ClaimedA 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.