Joe Biden’s administration is seemingly willing to brief former Donald Trump officials on newly discovered intelligence that China sent spy balloons into U.S. airspace during their time in charge.
Donald Trump could be briefed about the Chinese spy balloons
The offer, described by senior Biden administration officials on Sunday night, comes as former President Donald Trump and senior members of his national security team say they were never briefed on such an incursion by a Beijing-sent aircraft.
“This information was discovered after the prior administration left. The intelligence community is prepared to offer key officials from the Trump administration briefings on [China’s] surveillance program,” one of the officials said. The official, along with several others, asked not to be named in order to discuss sensitive information.
Briefers would also be willing to discuss Beijing’s similar operations in East Asia, South Asia and Europe over the last several years, the official said. The proposal to brief the Trump officials is the latest development following the military’s shootdown of a Chinese spy balloon on Saturday, seven days after it entered U.S. airspace. Republicans and former Trump officials said this week that they would have downed the airship as soon as it appeared, and criticized President Joe Biden for waiting until the balloon was over water before bringing it down.
Yet on Saturday, a senior Defense Department official said that Chinese spy balloons entered American airspace three times during Trump’s tenure and once before during the current administration. The administration officials didn’t detail how they learned of those events long after they happened.
Still, it helps explain why five senior Trump administration officials POLITICO spoke with on Sunday said they were never told of such incidents occurring when they were in office. “This never happened. It would have never happened,” Trump told Fox News on Sunday.
“I’m not aware of a single civilian national security leader from the Trump administration who heard of this,” a Trump administration national security official said.
But the difference between past instances and the one from last week, Defense Department officials said, is that those balloons never stayed above U.S. territory for a significant period of time. When pressed for specifics, such as the date, location and duration of those instances, Biden administration officials refused to provide them to POLITICO, citing the classified nature of that information.