The takedown of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon has the White House worried the unexpected ordeal could overshadow President Biden’s State of the Union address.
Biden has faced criticism from Republicans and pressure from his own party to explain why the administration let the balloon fly over much of the U.S. before the military was able to shoot it down on Saturday.
Officials have defended waiting until the balloon was over the Atlantic Ocean in order to prevent injuries or destruction of property. But then the administration faced a hailstorm when Biden administration officials indicated that foreign balloons had previously flown over the country during the era of former President Trump, stumping some officials who said they were unaware of that happening.
The Biden administration is working to recover the balloon, which national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday will be beneficial “so that we can then exploit what we recover and learn even more than we have learned.”
Officials have not yet discussed assessments of whether Chinese President Xi Jinping was aware of the balloon before it was revealed by the United States.