Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) rushed to Donald Trump's defense over reports that the Pentagon neglected to notify him when Chinese surveillance balloons were spotted over U.S. soil.
The Pentagon disclosed that three similar incidents involving Chinese spy balloons during Trump's time in the White House, but those reports were apparently not sent up the chain of command to the former president or even his defense secretary Mark Esper, who said he was never notified about those incidents.
"If it’s true the Pentagon purposely did NOT tell President Trump of Chinese Spy Balloons during his administration then we had a serious breach in command during the Trump admin," Greene tweeted. "The POTUS is the Commander in Chief. We must investigate and hold accountable those who broke rank."
The ex-president has denied reports about those balloons, and his former national security adviser John Bolton questioned them, but the Biden administration has said the incidents were not discovered until after the Trump administration left and offered to brief officials from the previous administration on them.
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China's foreign ministry said Monday that the decision to shoot down the balloon has "seriously impacted and damaged" relations.
The aircraft, which Washington said was a spy balloon, had spent several days flying over North America, leading the United States to call off a planned visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Washington on Saturday said a fighter jet had shot it down off the coast of South Carolina, because of what it called Beijing's "unacceptable violation" of American sovereignty.
Beijing protested the move, claiming the balloon was a civilian aircraft that was blown off course, and on Sunday lodged an official complaint with the US embassy in China.
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"The United States' actions have seriously impacted and damaged both sides' efforts and progress in stabilising Sino-US relations since the Bali meeting," vice foreign minister Xie Feng said in the complaint, according to a foreign ministry statement.
He was referring to a summit between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in November.
Beijing, the statement added, "is paying close attention to the development of the situation" and "reserves the right to make further necessary reactions."
Pentagon officials on Friday described the airship as a "high-altitude surveillance balloon," adding that Washington had taken steps to block it from collecting sensitive information.
A day after Pentagon officials said another balloon had been spotted somewhere over Latin America, air force officials in Colombia said an object with "characteristics similar to those of a balloon" had been detected Friday and "monitored until it left the national air space."
With additional reporting by AFP