MSNBC Host Grills Dem Rep. Jim Himes Over Biden’s Handling Of Chinese Spy Balloon

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell grilled Democratic Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes on Monday about the White House’s decision to wait to announce to the public that a Chinese spy balloon was flying over the U.S.

The Biden administration shot down the Chinese spy balloon Saturday after it spent several days moving eastward over highly sensitive sites. The balloon was spotted above Montana, which is home to the Malmstrom Air Force Base, where Minuteman III nuclear missiles are kept.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) detected the balloon Jan. 28 as it floated over Alaska before making its way through Canada and eventually back over the continental U.S., according to CNN. President Joe Biden was informed of the balloon Tuesday. By mid-week, many Montanans and other civilians had reportedly spotted the large craft in the air.

Biden and his team have since come under fire for both their decision to wait to shoot the balloon down, citing concerns over endangering those on the ground, as well as their decision to wait to tell the public about the balloon’s presence.

Mitchell questioned Himes on the criticism.

“What about the Republican complaint that Congress should have been notified right away, even if you didn’t have a full briefing. Congress left town on schedule,” Mitchell said. “The staff was given information, but, frankly, they did not come out with a Pentagon briefing until my colleague at NBC, Courtney Kube, was about to report this.”

“It’s a very good question,” Himes said. “Sitting as I do as Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, I never like reading about things in the press or hearing about them on cable news networks. So I think that’s a very fair question, and it’s one that not just Republicans, but that Democrats like myself, will be answering. Really looking at the decision-making process from the moment this balloon was picked up off the West Coast and what we think of that decision-making process.”

“Is it similar at all to the fact that on the classified documents, they went from November for months without telling anyone, until CBS reported that it had happened? Why don’t they get out in front of these things?” Mitchell pressed. (RELATED: Here’s How The Chinese Responded When A US Spy Plane Neared Chinese Air Space)

“I’m not going to speculate, you know, on something I don’t know about, which is decision-making around those documents inside the president’s office. My guess would be that it’s a totally different group of people in the Pentagon who were advising the president on notification on this stuff,” Himes said. “But it’s a really good question. Look, this was not something that was ever going to be secret. You didn’t even need a particularly powerful pair of binoculars to see this thing. So, again, very fair question. Why did the administration, what was its thinking and it’s rationale for informing us when it did? Totally fair question.”

China has claimed ownership of the craft but insisted it was a weather balloon that flew off its intended course. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Biden administration’s decision to use armed forces to shoot down the ballon was “clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention.”

The administration has also received criticism in recent weeks over its decision to withhold from the public for months that classified documents had been found at Biden’s personal residence in November, days before the midterms. The public was made aware of the documents’ discovery after CBS broke the news Jan. 10.