President Joe Biden was first briefed Tuesday on the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that is hovering over the US as it moves eastward in the coming days, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The president has since "continued to receive regular briefings and updates from the National Security Team," she said.
Jean-Pierre described how the decision-making process worked, saying that after being briefed, Biden asked "the military to present options—it was the strong recommendation by Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, the commander of Northern Command not to take kinetic action because of the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground."
"President Biden took that recommendation of the military seriously —of his advisers, clearly. The President will always put the security and security of the American people first," Jean-Pierre added.
Briefings to Congress: Congress has been briefed on China’s “surveillance balloon activities” in the past, the official said, including a briefing for “key committees” that took place last August, a White House official told CNN.
Staff members for the top Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence committee were briefed Thursday afternoon, and the official added that Department of Defense and State Department officials briefed leadership staff and national security staff on Friday. The administration has “also provided additional detail in writing.”
There are also efforts to brief lawmakers behind closed doors next week when Congress returns. “We are working on additional classified briefings for Congress next week,” the official said.
Jean-Pierre also said Friday Biden “agreed” with Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s decision “that it was not appropriate to travel to the People's Republic of China at this time,” acknowledging that while China has issued a “statement of regret... the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law and it is unacceptable.”
Officials decided to postpone Blinken's visit to China after high-level conversations between Blinken, President Joe Biden and other top national security officials, according to people familiar with the matter.