Biden admin to brief ‘Gang of Eight’ on Chinese spy balloon after Speaker McCarthy’s request
The Biden administration will brief the ‘Gang of Eight’ next week on the Chinese spy balloon hovering over the continental United States, according to a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Multiple lawmakers, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, asked for a ‘Gang of Eight’ briefing after the balloon was discovered.
‘China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent. I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing,’ McCarthy said on Twitter.
The ‘Gang of Eight’ consists of eight Republican and Democrat congressional leaders from the House and Senate who are briefed on classified matters from the executive branch.
During a briefing Thursday afternoon, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. government detected a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental U.S.
A senior defense official added that the U.S. government is ‘confident’ the surveillance balloon belongs to the People’s Republic of China.
The defense official said the balloon was recently over Montana, adding the government considered shooting it down but decided against doing so because of the potential risks.
President Biden was briefed on the situation and asked for military options, the official said.
‘You did see reports yesterday of a ground stop at Billings Airport and the mobilization of a number of assets, including F-22,’ the official said. ‘The context for that was that we put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana.
‘So, we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area. But, even with those protective measures taken, it was the judgment of our military commanders that we didn’t drive the risk down low enough. So, we didn’t take the shot.’
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson responded to U.S. government officials Friday, claiming the balloon is a ‘civilian airship’ being used for meteorological purposes and deviated from its planned course.
‘The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,’ the spokesperson said. ‘Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.’
A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News the balloon initially took off from mainland China. The Pentagon doesn’t believe claims that the object is a weather balloon that flew off course.
‘This was intentional,’ the senior U.S. official said.
As a result of the balloon’s discovery, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China.
The balloon was seen over Kansas City, Missouri, Friday. Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters the balloon will probably hover over U.S. airspace ‘a few days.’
Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.