A balloon US officials are calling a Chinese surveillance tool spent days flying over the continental United States before it was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet on Saturday.
Pentagon leaders advised President Joe Biden against immediately shooting the flying orb out of the sky due to safety concerns for civilians as the high-altitude object was large enough to create a large debris field, a senior defense official who spoke on background told reporters Thursday.
The dayslong spectacle saw many Republicans criticize the Biden administration for what they viewed as a slow response to the foreign object, while some conservative leaders and pundits took the opportunity to pick at confidence under the Biden administration in general as they claimed no other leader such as Donald Trump would have let a Chinese spy balloon fly over the US.
"Would Trump have let China fly a spy balloon over our country?" Rep. Jim Jordan wrote on Twitter. "Would Reagan? JFK? Truman? No, no, and no."
But senior Pentagon officials said on Saturday that suspected Chinese surveillance balloons crossed into the US at least three times during the Trump administration and once earlier in the Biden administration, the Associated Press reported.
In a statement to Fox News, Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker claimed that "if press reports are correct, the Biden Administration hoped to hide this incident from the American people."
However, the times when suspected surveillance balloons crossed into the US under the Trump administration were never made public until this past week's incident.
BREAKING: ABC News Host Jonathan Karl just broke it to Senator Marco Rubio that Trump let a Chinese spy balloon fly over the US 3 times.— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) February 5, 2023
I could watch his face on repeat 1,000 times as he hears this from Karl! pic.twitter.com/cu2Ou3Ioqj