Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that there is “no comparison” between the Trump administration and Biden administration over their respective handling of Chinese surveillance balloons.
The U.S. took down the spy balloon Saturday afternoon after the craft was spotted floating over several states over multiple days, including Idaho and Montana. The Pentagon was tracking the balloon as it headed eastward over the Carolinas before hovering above the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. military jets were seen flying near the balloon while there were several recovery vessels in the waters below.
Tapper first asked what type of information the spy balloon may have been able to gather, with Rubio stating that while he doesn’t have a definitive answer on what type of information was collected but said the larger takeaway is that the balloon sent a “clear message.”
“I think beyond just the ability to collect information, it is the ability to send a clear message, and that is that we have the ability to do this and America can’t do anything about it,” Rubio said. “If they’re not going to be able to stop a balloon from flying over U.S. airspace, how is America going to come to your aid if we invade Taiwan, take land from India, or Islands from the Philippines and Japan?”
“The Pentagon says they know of Chinese doing this four other times, previously once at the beginning of the Biden administration, three times during the Trump administration,” Tapper said. “You’re saying ‘no, that’s not true’?” (RELATED: Here’s How The Chinese Responded When A US Spy Plane Neared Chinese Air Space)
“No, what I’m saying – well the difference is this,” Rubio said. “Have we seen the Chinese fly these balloons in the past? Yes. I think there’s Twitter pictures of it flying at one point off the coast of the U.S. down south somewhere. The existence of the balloons is not a mystery to people in that field. What we’ve never seen, what is unprecedented and whoever the source is at the Department of Defense would have to acknowledge this, what is unprecedented is a balloon flight that entered over Idaho, over Montana, over all these sensitive military installations, Air Force bases, ICBM fields, right across the middle of the country, that has never happened before, that’s unprecedented.”
“That it flew briefly over some part of the continental U.S., that’s one thing,” Rubio continued. “But what we saw this week, this is unprecedented. This is no comparison anything that may have happened up to this point.”
The Department of Defense released a statement Thursday claiming that “instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years.”
Former Defense Sec. Mark Esper, who served in the Trump administration from July 2019 through November 2020 said he was “surprised” to hear comparisons being drawn, noting he does not recall any similar incident during his time in office.
“I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States.”
“I would remember that for sure,” he added, while on CNN.