Former Vice President Mike Pence‘s Indiana home and a Washington, DC office may soon be searched for additional classified records. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is monitoring a Chinese spy balloon that was spotted drifting over the northern United States.
Here’s what else is going on in politics:
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China, US tensions rise over suspected Chinese spy balloon
The discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon spotted over American airspace has further strained already tense relations between Beijing and Washington
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China has “no intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country” and urged calm while the facts are established.
The balloon’s appearance adds to national security concerns among American lawmakers over China’s influence in the US, ranging from the prevalence of TikTok to purchases of American farmland. Other issues – like Taiwan and the South China Sea, human rights in China’s western Xinjiang region and China’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have also increased tensions.
– Ella Lee, Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon:Chinese spy balloon spotted in American skies, Pentagon says; US weighed shooting it down
Montana lawmakers slam Biden on Chinese spy balloon
After a Chinese spy balloon was spotted drifting over Montana airspacelawmakers in the state are demanding answers from the Biden administration over its implications for state and national security.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requesting a “full security briefing”, raising concern that Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base and US intercontinental ballistic missile fields were the target of an intelligence collection mission.
Montana’s Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, said he is “deeply troubled by the constant stream of alarming developments for our national security.” Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke called the balloon a provocation, urging Biden to “Shoot. It. Down.”
The decision not to shoot down the balloon was made due to concerns that debris could injure Americans on the ground or destroy property, a senior Defense Department official said Thursday.
– Ella Lee
Pentagon: Chinese spy balloon spotted in American skies
A Chinese spy balloon has been spotted drifting over the northern United Statesand Pentagon officials have considered shooting it down, Defense Department officials said late Thursday.
The decision not to shoot down the balloon – which was over Montana when the US considered destroying it – was made because of concerns that debris could injure Americans on the ground or destroy property, according to a senior Defense Department official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The balloon is designed for surveillance, but is likely unable to collect more information than is available to spy satellites, the official said. It’s not the first time Chinese spy balloons have flown over the United States, according to the official.
–Tom Vanden Brook, Ella Lee
New Jersey Republican councilwoman shot to death. What we know
Investigators continue to search for clues in the violent slaying of a New Jersey councilwoman, whose shooting death remains a mystery and has drawn international attention.
Sayreville Republican Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour was shot to death outside her home Wednesday evening and was found dead and alone in her car by police. A 30-year-old married mother of a 12-year-old daughter, Dwumfour had been elected to the council as a Republican in November 2021 and served just over one year.
Police are working with FBI officials on the case and have revealed no suspects or motive for the killing. They declined to state if a suspect has been identified or if the public is in danger.
–Asbury Park Press staff, Ella Lee
North Korea warns of ‘overwhelming nuclear force’
North Korea said it is prepared to respond to US military moves with “the most overwhelming nuclear force,” and warned that the expansion of US military exercises with South Korea is pushing tensions to an “extreme red line,”
The statement by Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry came in response to comments by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who said Tuesday in Seoul that the United States would increase its deployment of advanced military assets to the Korean Peninsula, including fighter jets and aircraft carriers, as it strengthens joint training and operational planning with South Korea.
South Korea’s security jitters have risen since North Korea test-fired dozens of missiles in 2022, including potentially nuclear-capable ones designed to strike targets in South Korea and the US mainland.
Classified documents much more than a Biden, Pence, Trump problem, analysts say
It’s not just former presidents and vice presidents who have been caught mishandling classified and even top-secret documents, according to lawmakers and security analysts. And it’s not just those who have left office but potentially millions of people who are currently working in sensitive positions that require a US national security clearance.
“The universe of individuals who not only have access to classified information in one form or another but who have at different times mishandled it spreads across the entire gamut of the federal workforce and of cleared officials in the judiciary and Congress,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington, DC national security lawyer who handles mishandling of documents cases.
Moss and others interviewed by USA TODAY estimated that there are more than four million people with security clearances, including those in and out of government. In 2017, the Director of National Intelligence put the number at nearly 3 million peopleincluding more than 1.6 million with access to confidential or secret information and another 1.2 million with access to top secret information.
– Josh Meyer
FBI expected to search Pence locations for govt records
Federal authorities and representatives of Mike Pence have been discussing voluntary searches of the former vice president’s Indiana home and a Washington, DC, office for additional classified records, according to media reports.
The anticipated action comes after the FBI searched President Joe Biden’s Delaware vacation home Wednesday, the third Biden location where authorities have sought additional government records.
No classified documents were recovered at Biden’s Rehoboth Beach residence, but the FBI took some handwritten notes dating to his time as vice president, the president’s lawyer said.
Plans for a Pence-related search, first reported Thursday by the Wall Street Journal, follow the discovery last month of a small number of documents bearing classified markings at the former president’s Indiana home.
CNN also reported that authorities are expected to search a Washington office linked to Pence.
– Kevin Johnson
From office to beach house:Timeline of investigation into Joe Biden classified documents
House GOP launches another investigation
The House Judiciary Committee is deepening its investigation of political bias with a new focus on Charles McGonigal, a former FBI special agent who pleaded not guilty last week to charges of money laundering and violating US sanctions in connection with a Russian oligarch.
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., requested documents, personnel records and communications related to McGonigal by Feb. 16.
McGonigal, who led the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York for 22 years until 2018, is accused of working for Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
– Candy Woodall
Law barring guns for people with domestic violence restraining orders is unconstitutional, court rules
A federal appeals court Thursday ruled that a law barring people who are the subject of a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a firearm is unconstitutional in a case likely headed to the Supreme Court.
A three-judge panel of the Louisiana-based US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said the federal law may have been based on “salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society,” but that it still conflicts with the Second Amendment .
The ruling from the judges – two of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump and a third by former President Ronald Reagan – is a result of the Supreme Court’s major guns ruling last yearin which a 6-3 majority said that in order to pass constitutional muster a gun regulation must be consistent with the nation’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
– John Fritze