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Friday, March 24, 2023

Gang of Eight briefing on suspected Chinese spy balloon could occur as early as Tuesday

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Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Sunday criticized the Biden administration’s response to the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, saying the White House was “paralyzed for an entire week” and calling the incident an “embarrassment.”

Cotton, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, echoed the sentiments of other Republican lawmakers in accusing President Joe Biden of shying away from confrontation with China after the military waited three days to down the balloon.

“What began as a spy balloon has become a trial balloon testing President Biden’s strength and resolve, and unfortunately, the president failed that test,” Cotton said in an interview Sunday with Fox News.

Biden, for his part, told reporters Saturday that he gave the order Wednesday to take down the balloon “as soon as possible” and that the military waited to act until it had passed over the Atlantic Ocean to avoid “doing damage to anyone on the ground.”

A senior US defense official said Saturday that there were three instances during the Trump administration in which a Chinese balloon traveled over the continental United States. Cotton said Sunday he’s spoken to former Trump administration officials who told him they were “not aware of anything like this happening” while Donald Trump was in office.

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

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