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Source: ‘Gang of Eight’ to receive briefing on China, balloon

(NewsNation) — The “Gang of Eight” will receive a private, classified briefing this week about China and the balloon that was shot down off the Carolina coast, Capitol Hill sources told NewsNation.

The “Gang of Eight” consists of Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate of both intelligence committees: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Mark Warner, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Jim Himes and Rep. Mike Turner.

McCarthy requested the meeting on Feb. 2.

“China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent,” McCarthy shared on Twitter. “I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing.”

The briefing comes after the U.S. shot down a Chinese balloon hovering in U.S. airspace at President Joe Biden’s command and as some GOP lawmakers ask why it was not brought down sooner.

Biden said when he was briefed on the balloon, he ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down as soon as possible, but later said military officials recommended he wait on that order until the balloon was over water to make sure no one would be harmed by falling debris.

Without going into much detail, defense officials confirmed Saturday there was some intelligence value in letting the balloon go and monitoring it, analyzing, and assessing its capabilities.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted to the U.S. bringing down the balloon, in part calling it an overreaction:

“… the U.S. insists on using force, obviously overreacting and seriously violating international practice. China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies, while reserving the right to make further necessary reactions.”

Monday, China called the White House’s decision to shoot it down, “unacceptable and irresponsible.”

The main concern now for many U.S. lawmakers is this incident becoming a pattern. It’s not clear when the “Gang of Eight” will receive their briefing. A full U.S. Senate briefing on the balloon is expected to take place on Feb. 15.