Suspected spy balloons from China crossed into the continental United States at least three times during the Trump administration, according to a statement Saturday by the Department of Defense citing an unnamed "senior defense offical."
"Chinese balloons briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration," the statement noted. Associated Press also reported that one other balloon crossed into the U.S. earlier in the Biden administration.
None of those four incursions reportedly lasted as long as the trip by the spy balloon shot down Saturday by the U.S. military. And none of the other balloons was apparently blown out of the sky, though that was not immediately confirmed.
The spy balloon visits while Trump was in office undermined outrage by Republicans who complained that Biden didn't order the balloon this time around shot down quickly enough - or that he shouldn't have allowed the balloon to enter U.S. airspace to begin with.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) falsely claimed that Trump would never have allowed a China spy balloon from reaching the U.S.
"Would Trump have let China fly a spy balloon over our country?" Rep. Jim Jordan asked on Twitter.
Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told AP that Chinese surveillance balloons were sighted several times in the past five years. Some of them have been spotted near U.S. military bases in Hawaii, he said, though he did not specify when.
Trump himself joined the call for the Biden administration to destroy the most recent balloon in a message Friday on Truth Social, saying: "SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON." But he did not discuss his own administration's experience with China spy balloons.
Likely Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley also beat up on Biden for not taking more immediate action, but also failed to address balloons in the last administration.
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