China's shot-down spy balloon was a "poke in the eye" to the United States and President Joe Biden that should have been brought down far before it was allowed to drift across the continental United States, Rep. Ryan Zinke told Newsmax on Sunday.
"They knew where it went," the Montana Republican and retired U.S. Navy SEAL said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "It was maneuverable by the Pentagon's assessment. They could loiter, so it had some degree of control."
The balloon, after a week of crossing the United States, was brought down by a missile off the South Carolina coast near Myrtle Beach. Saturday, U.S. defense and military officials said the suspected spy balloon entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28, moved across Alaska and Canadian airspace in the Northwest Territories on Monday, and then came back into U.S. territory over Idaho on Tuesday, when the White House reported Biden was briefed first on it.
However, the administration said the balloon was not brought down until it was over the ocean out of fear of property damage and human casualties.
But Zinke said Sunday the balloon could have been brought down while over the sparsely populated Aleutian Islands or at other points before being allowed to travel across the country. Further, the balloon was spotted Thursday over Montana, home to Malmstrom Air Force Base and its nuclear missile silos, but Zinke said Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was not informed about the balloon until it was hundreds of miles inside Montana.
"There are counties in Montana, such as Petroleum County, that has 434 people," said Zinke, while questioning why the balloon couldn't have been brought down sooner. "That's less than the number of members of Congress. That doesn't make any sense. And I guarantee you off the coast of the Carolinas there's more boat traffic than there is traffic in Montana."
But instead, the balloon was knocked down only when it had completed its mission across the United States, said Zinke.
"This has been a long series of ineptitude," he added about the Biden administration, including the pullout from Afghanistan, which gave Russian President Vladimir Putin the "green light" to invade Ukraine.
"If we can't deal with a balloon, how are we going to deal with Taiwan?" he asked.
Further, "we know that China lied" about the balloon, but the Biden administration lied as well.
"This administration said three things immediately," said Zinke, pointing out that the White House reported that other Chinese balloons entered U.S. airspace when former President Donald Trump was in office, so "they tried to blame it on Trump."
"This is right out of their playbook," said Zinke. "I've talked to cabinet members, and no cabinet member from the Trump administration can recall ever being briefed on an air balloon of this size from China, so that doesn't hold water."
Meanwhile, China learned about the "ineptitude" of the chain of command of the United States with its balloon mission, said Zinke.
"They watched this whole thing, and they watched our complete chain of command's disastrous outcome ... it seems like China is lying; but it seems like on the appearance, so are we."
Meanwhile, the United States must "shore up" South America, as "China's influence there is causing havoc."
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Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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