Former DNI Ratcliffe: No Chinese Spy Balloon While Trump Was in Office; Rubio: 'Unprecedented'

( – “Every time something goes wrong in the Biden administration, there’s one of two responses,” former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“They either find a way to blame the Trump administration, or they try and find a way to say the Trump administration did it, too. And that’s what they’re trying to say here…that this happened during the Trump administration. It didn’t,” Ratcliffe said.

“And you would have heard about it before,” he added.

On Saturday, a senior administration official told reporters during a “background” brief that “PRC government 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.”

“Well, it’s not true,” Ratcliffe told Maria Bartiromo.


“I can refute it. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper refuted it yesterday. Secretary — former Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo has refuted it.

“But, Maria, the American people can refute it for themselves. Do you remember, during the Trump administration, when photographers on the ground and commercial airline pilots were talking about a spy balloon over the United States that people could look up and see even with the naked eye, and that a media that hated Donald Trump wasn’t reporting?

“I don’t remember that either, because it didn’t happen. As I said to you earlier, this was unprecedented. We have never had a circumstance where an adversary has had spycraft over our country, our continental United States, posing a threat for the better part of a week straight.

“And that’s why I said to you before, the — not only is it unprecedented, but the damage from this is incalculable, both from an intelligence standpoint and the possible payloads. You talked a little bit earlier about the different types of payloads that a stratospheric balloon could carry. Those possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

“But what we do know is, none of those are possible to be deployed against the United States if a stratospheric balloon isn’t allowed to traipse across our countryside for four straight days, something that has never happened before.

“But, beyond that intelligence damage, Maria, the other thing is that the damage that it wasn’t just 320 million Americans that were watching this balloon paralyzed for a week.

“It was Russia. It was Iran. It was North Korea. It was American adversaries who also were surprised that this type of thing could happen and are, frankly, thrilled at the possibilities of what they could do to deploy the same type of stratospheric balloon or device over the continental mainland and have this kind of slow, weak, timid, late, frankly, terrible response by the Biden administration.”

Bartiromo followed up: “[J]ust to be clear, you’re saying there were not three spy balloons from China that entered the United States airspace and traveled and was able to do what we have seen this week?”

“Yes, I’m telling you that very clearly,” Ratcliffe said.

Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007-2011, told ABC’s “This Week,” he’s not aware of a Chinese spy balloon traversing the United States:

“So, to my knowledge, it’s the first time, you know, I’ve seen them come over the country like this, there’s no question. And, obviously, you can’t hide it,” Mullen said.

CNN is reporting that the Biden administration learned — but only after Trump was out of office — that three Chinese spy balloons invaded U.S. airspace during Trump’s tenure.

The senior administration official did not say how or when those incidents were discovered.

According to CNN: “The official said that the intelligence community is prepared to offer briefings to key Trump administration officials about the Chinese surveillance program, which the Biden administration believes has been deployed in countries across five continents over the last several years.”

‘No comparison’ 

Asked about those three alleged balloon incursions during the Trump administration, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Sunday that there was “no comparison” to what just happened. 

“What is unprecedented is a balloon flight that entered over Idaho and flew over Montana, over all these sensitive military installations, Air Force bases, ICBM fields, right across the middle of the country,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“That it flew briefly over some part of the U.S. or continental U.S., that’s one thing. But what we saw this week, it’s unprecedented,” he said. “And that’s why everyone’s reacting the way they’re reacting. We have never seen this.” 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also commented on those earlier reported incidents, telling “Fox News Sunday” that there may be some conflating of previous cases of balloons floating in the airspace of places like Hawaii or Guam “and a spy balloon going all across the middle of the country.” 

“Maybe what’s even more worrisome is, one, did our senior military know about these balloons in the past and not inform their civilian superiors during the Trump administration?” he asked. “Or maybe worst of all, did we not know about these balloons in the past and we only learned them in retrospect by studying historical data?” 

“These are all open questions for which the American people deserve answers,” Sen. Tom Cotton said. “And we in Congress are going to get those answers.”


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