House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Turner (R., Ohio) on Sunday accused the Biden administration of trying to divert attention away from the suspected Chinese spy balloon discovered in U.S. airspace.
The U.S. military downed the surveillance balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday, days after it was seen hovering over sensitive military facilities in Montana.
"The moment this balloon became public, I got a notice not from the administration that I'm going to get a briefing on this balloon, but they have to rush to Congress now to talk to us about Donald Trump's documents," Turner told NBC's Meet the Press. "You can see they want to change the news."
Despite questions swirling about the balloon, he said he expects to receive a briefing this week on the classified documents discovered in personal spaces belonging to President Joe Biden, former president Donald Trump and former vice president Mike Pence.
Turner said there is currently no briefing scheduled on the balloon. He suggested a briefing on the balloon should come before a briefing about the documents.
"This administration needs to understand that we do have national security urgent matters," Turner said.
Republican lawmakers have criticized the administration for its lack of transparency about the balloon and its delayed response.
The Pentagon first became aware of the balloon on January 28, when it entered U.S. airspace in Alaska. The Biden administration kept the discovery under wraps so as not to jeopardize Secretary of State Blinken's planned trip to Beijing, Bloomberg reported. Blinken postponed the trip on Friday just hours before he was set to depart. Blinken and President Biden decided it was best to postpone the trip in light of the unfolding situation with the balloon, officials told the Associated Press.
While several Republican lawmakers called on the U.S. to shoot down the balloon earlier this week, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Ryan Zinke of Montana, the military waited to take down the balloon until it was over water off the coast of South Carolina due to concerns from the Pentagon that the action could cause civilian casualties if carried out elsewhere on the balloon's flight path.
Turner on Sunday said waiting until Saturday to shoot down the balloon was like "tackling the quarterback after the game is over."
"The satellite had completed its mission," Turner said. "It should never have been allowed to enter the United States and it never should have been allowed to complete its mission."
Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) similarly said the balloon should have been taken down sooner.
"I want to start by doing something that I don't do very often, which is commending Joe Biden for actually having the guts to shoot this down," Cruz said during an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation. "That was the right thing to do. That is absolutely what the president should have done. Unfortunately, he didn't do that until a week after it entered U.S. airspace."
"He allowed a full week for the Chinese to conduct spying operations over the United States, over sensitive military installations, exposing not just photographs but the potential of intercepted communications," he added.
While the U.S. is working to recover debris from the balloon, Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a member of the Gang of Eight that is briefed on highly classified intelligence matters, warned Sunday that officials are unlikely to recover significant intelligence from the remains.
"The Chinese sort of suspected that this might happen," Rubio said on ABC's This Week. "They flew this thing across the middle of the United States. So I imagine whoever designed this thing and put it up there realized . . . at some point the Americans may get their hands on this. It's quite possible that it was designed in such a way where there wouldn't be much value to us in that regard."
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