As tensions between the United States and China continue to escalate, a recent report has raised questions about the potential for Chinese surveillance balloons to have transited the continental United States during the Trump administration. But former President Trump and a number of his top national security and defense officials have refuted these claims, saying that it “never happened.”
In an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital, President Trump said that the Biden administration is spreading disinformation and that Beijing “respected us greatly” under his leadership. Former White House national security adviser Amb. John Bolton echoed this sentiment, saying that he had never heard of anything like this occurring during his tenure.
Amb. Robert O’Brien, who also served as White House national security adviser from 2019 to 2021, also told Fox News Digital that he had no knowledge of anything like this occurring. Former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell said that if a balloon had come up, the intelligence community would have known and it would have “bubbled up” to him to brief the president. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck said that he also was unaware of this activity.
Former Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, and former National Counterterrorism Center Director Chris Miller all said they had never heard of a Chinese surveillance balloon while they were in government. Pentagon officials have not yet responded to requests for comment.
The balloon was shot down on Saturday off the coast of South Carolina, after traveling for days over the continental United States. Senior defense officials said Saturday was the first time the U.S. had the chance to shoot down the balloon over water. The military and intelligence community recovery efforts are underway and the FBI will play a role in the recovery efforts.
The reports of Chinese surveillance balloons transiting the continental United States during the Trump administration have yet to be verified, but the statements from President Trump and his top national security and defense officials refute these claims and provide insight into the potential for Chinese espionage.