MSNBC’s Katy Tur pressed Democratic Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi on Monday about claims that the Chinese flew spy balloons over the U.S. during the Trump administration.
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.
The Department of Defense released a statement Thursday night claiming “instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years” but did not disclose any further information.
“How do you feel about the president not telling the American public sooner, and not telling lawmakers sooner?” Tur asked.
“Well, I don’t want to pass judgment until I get more information from the White House with regard to their decision making,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We know that during the Trump years, a balloon from the CCP had transmitted the U.S. three times and we were not notified. I’m not questioning why we weren’t notified or why the American public wasn’t notified. At the end of the day, I’m waiting to hear answers from the Biden Administration. Overall, I was very pleased with the outcome.”
“You say we know it happened during the Trump administration, officials from the Trump administration say they don’t know about this,” Tur said. “Where are you getting that information? Is it just from the Pentagon saying it or have you seen the evidence?” (RELATED: MSNBC Host Grills Dem Rep. Jim Himes Over Biden’s Handling Of Chinese Spy Balloon)
“No, it’s from the Pentagon reports,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Basically it’s puzzling to me that Trump Administration officials might disagree with the Pentagon with regard to this particular situation, but nevertheless, the main point is the Chinese Community Party is sending these high altitude balloons and it doesn’t matter which party is in the White House.”
A senior Biden administration official told CNN Sunday that there were three Chinese spy balloons spotted over the U.S. during the Trump administration but that they were only discovered after Biden took office. The official reportedly did not disclose how or when the instances were discovered.
But several former Trump officials pushed back against the claim, with former Defense Sec. Mark Esper telling CNN on Friday that he was “surprised” the DoD made the claim.
“I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” Esper said. “I would remember that for sure…That would have caught my attention for sure. I don’t recall it ever happening.”
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton also pushed back, asking whether the Biden Administration invented “a time machine.”
“What is the basis of this new detection?” Bolton said on “CNN This Morning” on Monday. “The very fact, if it is a fact, that the Chinese tried this before, should have alerted us and should have caused us to take action before the balloon crossed into American sovereign territory.”
Former President Donald Trump himself took to Truth Social to call the claims “fake.”