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Is Trump right about shooting down the Chinese spy balloon?

President Donald J. Trump at the 450th mile of the new border wall, Jan. 12, 2021, near the Texas Mexico border. (Shealah Craighead/White House)
February 03, 2023

Former President Donald Trump has weighed in on the revelation that a Chinese spy balloon is currently flying above the U.S. after the government opted not to shoot it down.

“SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!” Trump posted Friday morning on his Truth Social website.

The Pentagon announced on Thursday evening that it has been tracking a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the U.S. in recent days. On Friday, the Pentagon announced the balloon was heading east somewhere over the central part of the country.

The Pentagon said the balloon is flying higher than civilian aircraft, poses no threat to people on the ground, and likely can’t gather more data than is already available to Chinese low-earth orbit satellites. 

A senior defense official said that the spy balloon had at one point been spotted over a sparsely populated area of Montana, but the government stopped short of shooting it down, fearing damage from its debris field.

In a press conference Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the balloon is “big enough” that “any potential debris field would be significant and potentially cause civilian injuries or deaths or significant property damage.”

Ryder said the balloon is carrying a “large payload.” He avoided directly denying that “payload” could mean some kind of weaponry and repeated that the aircraft is a surveillance balloon.

In a Twitter post, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Friday asserted that Trump would not “have let China fly a spy balloon over our country,” adding that several other former presidents wouldn’t have, either. 

“So why’s Biden letting China off the hook?” he continued.

While Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke tweeted that he would personally “pull the trigger” on the balloon that flew over his state, Montana’s other representative, Rep. Matt Rosendale, called for a “safe way to bring this balloon down” and examine it.